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“Bring Your Own Device” – Is it right for your business?

For those unfamiliar with BYOD, here’s an explanation; “Bring Your Own Device” (BOYD) is the policy of allowing employees to bring personally owned mobile devices – such as laptops, tablets and smart phones – to their workplace, and use those devices to access privileged company information and applications.

Often, it is recommended that you work with a trusted IT outsourcing company to help make these types of decisions for your business. However, this blog post will detail the positive and negative elements of BYOD which should help guide you towards a more informed viewpoint.

The advantages of “Bring Your Own Device”

There are three main arguments for BYOD. They are as follows:

  1. Increased productivity – Staff are more familiar with their own devices and they have access to them out of normal business hours, increasing the possibilities of doing out of hours work.
  2. Ability to attract better staff – Allowing employees to choose their own devices is perceived as a positive move.
  3. Save money – the business doesn’t need to purchase the devices.

Conversely, BYOD also brings a lot of challenges that need to be considered and addressed before implementing such a policy.

The disadvantages of “Bring Your Own Device”

Firstly, it’s worth noting that BYOD is better suited to smart phones rather than tablets and laptops. Laptops and tablets are more complex devices where the dual use can cause negative impact on the user’s efficiency (e.g. computer running slow due to being poorly maintained, non-work related distractions) so one consideration is to limit your BYOD policy to smart phones only.

BYOD does potentially remove or reduce up-front capital costs associated with the devices but the total cost of IT ownership is not just the cost of buying the hardware; it’s the cost of maintaining it in a way that will ensure the user operates effectively and efficiently.

When the business owns the hardware, it can ensure the kit is properly set up and supported whereas staff-owned devices may not be suitable and could lead to additional maintenance costs and/or reduced efficiency.  The hidden cost of losing this control could be far greater than the initial savings.

The nature of activity conducted on personal devices means that such devices have an increased risk of catching viruses and/or downloading malware that can then, in a BYOD environment, infect other staff or even customers and suppliers to the business. The potential costs related to these issues could be enormous.

Access to data from a non-company owned device also has implications in relation to data protection. It is vital that any company going down the BYOD route must have a comprehensive data protection policy (specifically relating to BYOD) and this policy must be policed to ensure it is implemented. Creating and maintaining such controls will have further cost implications.

A further consideration is that whilst the user being able to access work systems outside of standard business hours could bring increased productivity, which may work in reverse if a user has increased access to their home emails, online social networks and such while at work. If they see a personal email or message from a social network, will they ignore it until their lunch break or after work?

Finally, one area of technology that can help alleviate some of the above issues is the use of virtual or hosted desktops. Such environments enable the business environment to be completely segregated from the local home working environment which gives back a lot of the control that can be lost with BYOD. Unfortunately, there is a cost associated with this and for many SMEs it may become a more expensive option than purchasing the hardware initially.

Making the right business decision

So, as with implementing any technology strategy, whether BYOD is right for your business depends on your business and your specific situation.

On the one hand, you may feel your business can increase productivity by permitting employees to profit from the familiarly of their own devices. On the other, unexpected technical malfunctions and a lack of control over the consumption of technology could lead to problems.

It’s a unique business dilemma that can only be answered correctly in-line with how you’d like to operate your business.

This blog post has been contributed by a leading and multi award-winning IT Support Service – The PC Support Group.

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