As organisations look to enable flexible working and increased collaboration, the deployment of mobile technology has become a top priority in business.
Companies have sought to gain these advantages as quickly as possible and in so doing have been allowing, and in many cases encouraging, employees to use their own mobile devices for work purposes.
With the capabilities of consumer devices developing much faster than enterprise devices in recent years, employees have also, understandably, wanted these latest devices to be available to them. However, providing personal devices with access to corporate networks has not been without its challenges. This informative paper, which includes the latest industry statistics and commentary on BYOD, looks at the impact personal device use is having on businesses.
Defining Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): BYOD is an approach that allows employees and partners to utilise personally selected and purchased devices, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, for work purposes.
Research by YouGov has found almost half of UK workers now use personal devices for work purposes. The most common usage for these devices is email (55%), followed by the editing of work documents (37%) and the storing of work documents (36%).
The benefits of BYOD are not limited to the quicker adoption of these tools however. BYOD initiatives are also allowing employees to use technology they are already comfortable with, and from a business perspective this has the advantage of reducing the need for training.
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Challenges created by BYOD adoption
Bring your own device initiatives have clear benefits for businesses, however, by not owning these devices businesses have found they have urgently needed to address several issues created.
A huge uptick in the number of device looking for network access within organisations has placed a huge strain on legacy infrastructure. Companies have also found that supporting multiple different operating systems to be much more complicated than in the previous arrangement, where the IT department would keep all employee devices on one system. The biggest headache for organisations however, have been the security risks created by granting numerous personal devices access to the corporate network and its data.
Some concerned companies have attempted to protect themselves by denying access to employee-owned devices. The evidence suggests, however, that in most cases this approach often fails.
By ignoring to existence of BYOD, companies could be putting their organisation at risk from the unchecked use of personal devices. This is worrying as an unavoidable consequence of BYOD is the line between personal and work lives becomes blurred. As people are not restricted from downloading from untrustworthy sources in their personal lives, there is a genuine concern company networks will become exposed to viruses, malware and data breaches.
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Companies should also worry that corporate data stored on these personal devices could be exposed if they are lost or stolen. The Information Commissioner’s Office has made it clear it is prepared to fine organisations of all sizes (and already has) for not taking steps to adequately protect customer data stored on devices which have been lost or stolen.
Customer data along with trade secrets and other valuable company information could also be taken out of the company when employees move on to pastures new, unless steps are taken.
Solutions to these challenges
Companies can begin to safeguard their company by educating staff on the possible risks of not securing devices with passwords, leaving devices unattended in public places and downloading material from untrustworthy sources. Companies have also begun introducing policies covering BYOD which employees are compelled to comply with when using their devices for work.
Mobile management and support
Companies can protect mobile devices by installing security software which will not just block malicious online threats but can also lock, locate and wipe devices remotely in the event they are lost or stolen. Mobile device management software can also help organisations enforce their BYOD policies by acting as an internet gatekeeper. An increasing number of companies are also looking to facilitate and protect flexible working on personal devices by utilising virtualisation technology.
As more and more employees seek access to their organisations network it has placed a heavy strain on legacy infrastructure. End-users have found that when too many devices attempt to access this infrastructure performance is impaired. In response, companies have continued to make new investments in wireless local area networks (WLANs).
Further implications of BYOD
Having been empowered by BYOD, many employees are demanding their organisations also allow them to use applications of their own choosing for work as well. Businesses have now come under pressure to allow and facilitate the use of productivity and social collaboration tools on these personal devices.
Consumer side devices are now driving the enterprise, with 74% of companies allowing use of personal devices in work. Meanwhile, evidence shows that banning personal device usage fails, so Bring Your Own Device is here to stay.
Whether there is a debate between IT and finance, security nightmare versus reduced IT spend per head and improved productivity, there are clearly benefits that mean IT needs to nail down BYOD quickly for better business. Critically, corporate data is finding its way onto these devices in the form of emails or documents and new devices are being brought on-site daily, so it must all be regulated.
Security and wireless accessibility are core to this focus and in that order. There is no point in providing access unless it is secure for both the user and the business.
Organisations need to set policies and educate employees on usage and permissions. There should be consideration of mobile device management software and firewalls to protect band width, the network and data.
The mobile device estate, which has largely driven BYOD, demands superb wireless networking. Without it, user experience and productivity will be hampered. A solid and future-proofed wireless network is critical for making BYOD really work for business.
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