Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is on pace to overtake the technology environment in many workplaces, with Gartner predicting that half the world’s employers will require BYOD by 2017.
This makes a lot of sense as BYOD is widely recognized for enabling better productivity along with greater flexibility, utility and user familiarity. But there’s a lot more to BYOD than meets the eye.
Craig Borowski is the managing editor at Software Advice, a publication that provides research and reviews on software applications, and has done extensive research in the BYOD space. Vaultize interviewed Borowski to get his insights on the benefits and drawbacks of BYOD in the workplace.
Q: What percentage of companies have BYOD policies?
It’s common for small- and medium-sized businesses across a range of industries to have de facto BYOD policies in place. This creates a scenario where the business leaders know that BYOD is going on, but they don’t know to what extent.
Fortunately, there are many good mobile device management (MDM), mobile content management (MCM) and BYOD tools available today. As the use of these platforms increases, the statistics on BYOD policy will become clearer.
Q: What are some of the business advantages of BYOD?
Productivity is at the top of the list. Mobile devices enable people to stay in the loop at all times. People are more inclined to check their email if they can do it on their smartphone, especially after the traditional workday is over. If a company lets its workers use their personal smartphones to access and share enterprise files, they’re able to get work done from anywhere, even after office hours.
But there’s also a number of less-discussed advantages of BYOD. A study by the IT asset management research firm Software Advice found that nearly 40 percent of consumers using personal mobile devices at work faced technical problems much less often than people using a company-issued device.
Moreover, consumers who BYOD were 17 percent less likely to open help desk tickets to resolve issues than those who use company-issued devices. The less help desk support that employees need, the less it costs a company to provide it.
Q: Are there any disadvantages to BYOD?
BYOD forces organizations to think about information security in new ways. In highly regulated spaces such as healthcare or finance, you must consider compliance issues that might be a smaller concern outside of a BYOD environment.
For example, two doctors attending to the same patient cannot use their personal smartphones to share protected health information (PHI) on their patient. Uploading photos of a patient’s operation to Dropbox and sharing them with other doctors would also be a HIPAA violation.
You must also consider BYOD together with data security. What happens to sensitive information as it moves beyond the corporate firewall? If sensitive files are accessed and shared between employees through Bluetooth or open Wi-Fi, that data becomes prone to loss, leakage or theft.
A strong BYOD policy includes a secure MCM platform with multidimensional access rights that can govern who accesses data, where it’s accessed from, how the access occurs and when it happens.
Q: How should a company proceed if it decides to use a BYOD approach?
The first step is to assess your IT landscape. Figure out the extent of BYOD in your workplace, then determine how and why those devices are being used. It’s easiest to just start asking questions. Alternatively, you could evaluate statistics on what kind of devices regularly access files on your servers to get a sense of how deeply BYOD is already ingrained in your workplace.
Once you know your situation, identify what data you need to protect the most. Then identify programs or apps on the market that offer the enterprise file security solutions you need and the productivity tools your workforce wants. Some enterprise mobility solutions keep data stored in cloud servers, never letting it reside in any useable form on the device itself. Other solutions store enterprise files in highly encrypted containers that can be remotely wiped if a device is lost or stolen.
After you’ve determined your challenges and researched the solutions, all that’s left to do is make a decision and take the time to educate your team on the importance of enterprise file security in the BYOD era.