Can Your Business Truly Support a BYOD Policy?
Employers have previously been expected to provide their workers with all the tools they need to do their job. However, innovation is necessary in the business world, and BYOD could very well change the modern office.According to the Pew Research Center, more than two-thirds of Americans owned a smartphone in 2015, while 45% had a tablet at home. In addition, Cisco’s Visual Networking Index predicted that mobile Internet use will outstrip desktop by 2020, growing at an estimated 48% annually. Plus, the way in which employees interact with each other is becoming increasingly application based, with most major productivity platforms launching mobile apps, Office 365 being a prime example.
To that end, let's take a look at this trend to see exactly what companies can gain, as well as what they need to overcome some of the issues BYOD can pose.
BYOD Present Several Advantages
It's important to note that there are several advantages in allowing employees to use their own devices for work. A BYOD policy means companies won't have to invest as much in new hardware. Technology is constantly changing, and staying ahead in the business world means using the best of the best. However, constantly updating the company-owned gadgets workers use on a regular basis simply isn't an option.
The average consumer, on the other hand, purchases new devices all of the time. Many of us even go so far as to get a new phone or computer every single year, and this can be incredibly beneficial to the company. Employers get the speed and convenience of modern gadgets without having to actually pay for them.
On top of this, BYOD has actually been shown to improve productivity. Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group conducted a survey that found the average American BYOD user saves roughly 81 minutes per week by using their own device at work. That translates to roughly 70 extra hours of productivity every year.
In effect, companies can get nearly two extra weeks of work out of their employees by simply letting them utilize their own phones and computers for work purposes. There are a lot of reasons behind this, but one of them is that workers are already familiar with their own devices, and therefore, don't have to devote time learning how to use them.
There Are Downsides to BYOD
However, like any emerging trend, there are also some major negatives to BYOD. The largest of these has to do with the security of company information. Although workers can benefit from being able to bring this data home with them, doing so also poses some significant concerns. The first obstacle here has to do with the current mentality surrounding smartphone security.
Many employees do not view their smartphones as full-fledged computers, which means they often don't take the precautions that they normally would with a traditional laptop or desktop. A Consumer Reports infographic stated that 34% of respondents didn't utilize any means of securing the information on their smartphone. This includes a four-digit pin, which means there is a significant chunk of the population that could easily lose control of the data on their phone simply by leaving it on a bus or train.
This is a pretty frightening revelation, as it means company information is just a pick-pocket away. Although the danger from malicious strangers is apparent, organizations also have to worry about who else uses the employee-owned device. William Long of Computer Weekly pointed out the many problems facing institutions in this regard.
"These issues include, for example, ensuring that work data will not be merged with an employee's personal data, [and] that non-employees, such as family members who use the device, do not access work data," said Long.
Most employees won't think much of letting their friend use their phone, but doing so under a BYOD policy could lead to a major leak in private company data. As such, employers simply cannot leave these kinds of decisions in the hands of their workers.
Employees Are Already Using their own Devices
Although there are clearly disadvantages to implementing a BYOD program in the workplace, these can be mitigated if the company takes the proper steps in order to do so. However, the true problem here is that organizations often don't understand that employees are going to be using their own devices regardless of company policy.
A Gartner study of 4,300 consumers in the U.S. came to some frightening conclusions that should make administrators think twice about the security of their business's data. The survey found that around 37% of people who use their own gadgets for work don't have expressed consent from their employers.
Employees use their own gadgets because it's easy, and they have no idea about the security risks, and that's a huge portion of the working population that currently have information on their own smartphones and laptops that they shouldn't be taking home. This alarming realization should give credence to how important it is to hammer out a BYOD policy as soon as possible. Employees aren't doing this because they're malicious or simply don't care about what happens to their company; they're using their own gadgets because it's easy, and they typically have no idea about the security risk they're posing to their employer.
What Can Businesses Do to Mitigate Risk?
Clearly, administrators need to act in order to avoid a data breach from employees who are currently using unsecured devices to store and transfer company data. Plus, ignoring the benefits of this trend just to sidestep the disadvantages simply isn't a viable solution. So what is an employer to do?
First, it's vital that administrators call a meeting and discuss the security concerns of BYOD with their employees. Most workers just don't know that they're putting company data at risk, and simply informing them of this fact could help them improve the security of their smartphone or computer. On top of this, the discussion should also surround what is acceptable behavior when it comes to bringing in personally-owned gadgets into the workplace. These devices can be used at home, but it's vital that other people aren't given access to these devices. Employers should make it clear that even the most trusted friends and family members could accidentally let some company secrets slip to third parties, resulting in a major breach.
Finally, it might be a good idea to have several members of your IT staff complete the Microsoft 20398 Course: Planning for and Managing Devices in the Enterprise. This course teaches IT professionals how to use the Enterprise Mobility Suite to manage devices, users, and data. In addition, this course teaches students how to use other technologies, such as Group Policy and other Windows Server–based technologies, to manage devices and secure data. Students will learn how to design and implement cloud-based and on-premises solutions for managing Windows-based, iOS, and Android devices, and they will learn how to provide secure and efficient access to data and applications.
Wide-spread use of BYOD at work is a natural progression, and increasing numbers of companies are allowing employees to use personal devices to connect to corporate networks. However, comparatively few have implemented measures to mitigate against the security risks inherent in BYOD initiatives in the workplace.
Ensuring that your staff understands the importance of online security and how to implement it is a vital part of any BYOD service, and it’s vital to impress on employees why the rules need to be followed. Digital security training doesn’t need to be boring; include examples of how data leaks compromise a business, and follow up the training with on-the-job assessment.
At New Horizons, we’re talking about IT everyday—and not just with a variety of clients, but with leading vendors—about industry trends and real-life challenges. And because of these close partnerships, New Horizons is positioned to help businesses like yours leverage our knowledge experts to discuss strategies, implementation and troubleshooting.
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