Employers and employees both find BYOD (“bring your own device”) an attractive concept. Employers would love to do away with the enormous monthly costs of buying, maintaining and supporting a large network of company-owned devices. Employees like the idea of choosing their own smartphones, laptops, operating systems, apps and accessories. Is this new trend right for your business? Here are the things to consider when choosing a BYOD policy.
1. The Total Cost of Implementing BYOD
Image via Flickr by Christiano Betta
The company frees itself from the huge costs associated with buying all the laptops, smartphones and mobile plans. In many cases, this makes up for the other costs, but you need to know what these are before making the call. There are costs associated with developing the BYOD policies. There are also some hidden costs, such as software licensing and the costs of maintaining higher traffic on the network, since many employees who weren’t using the network with company-owned devices will be on the network with their own devices.
Conduct a cost-benefits analysis to decide if your company is saving enough on the devices and service plans to offset the costs of developing and initiating a BYOD plan. Be sure to include the working hours it will take to develop the policy, and consult the IT department to see how the changes will affect the help desk. Also, consider that your individual employees won’t qualify for the bulk discounts your company gets for purchasing large numbers of devices and cellular plans. Determine how much you’re able to offer each employee to reimburse them for company use of their personal devices.
2. What BYOD Means to the IT Department
The IT department will be charged with training its staff on a variety of devices, helping to create the documentation to outline user agreements, security precautions, whether employees will be allowed to use public Wi-Fi, and other such considerations. Likely, IT’s main concern will be with security. But also consider what applications will need to be developed internally to give your employees the tools they need.
The IT department may also want to place restrictions on particular devices, either for security reasons or for practical reasons, such as a particular device’s features. Some devices may be too low-tech or too high-tech to be compatible with the systems the IT department has in place.
3. Legal Considerations
Since BYOD significantly opens up the platforms, there are some legal concerns to consider so that both corporate and employees’ private data is protected. According to Infoworld, there are many legal grey areas when it comes to BYOD and MDM in general such privacy concerns, device ownership, risk management and loss prevention. In order to avoid these issues and protect your company, it is best to follow these practices:
- Always mandate password protection at a companywide level
- Make sure your BYOD software locks after prolonged activity
- Mandate that devices must not be rooted or jailbroken
- Use strong encryption on private company files in order to prevent theft of sensitive data
- Mandate a signed legal contract to the terms and services of your company’s BYOD policies
4. How BYOD Affects Productivity
One of the many upsides to BYOD is how it can boost employee productivity, as well as morale. Employees feel a sense of freedom when they get to choose between a laptop or smartphone, and when they get to pick their favorite OS, browser and apps. Each employee has a better sense of the size and type of plan that best suits their personal and professional use. So, they can choose the plan that meets their needs and the company is released from the one-size-has-to-fit-all approach.
Often, this new-found freedom translates directly into higher productivity. While this is difficult to quantify on a cost-benefits analysis, it is certainly there. Employees are also likely to treat the equipment better when they have a vested financial interest in the device. This eliminates worker downtime from devices dropped or lost.
5. Security Considerations of BYOD
Along with the freedom, you’ll need to set restrictions to keep your network secure. You’ll need to establish a policy to outline how strong passwords need to be, and to identify what apps are allowed on the device and which are not. Again, your IT department is a helpful resource to decide if apps like Dropbox and Skydrive can be secured and used by employees. Will workers be offered WLAN access while in the office? What are the enrollment procedures for employees to get on the network? What happens when an employee leaves the company?
You’ll also need to create policies to discuss jailbroken phones, the level of encryption used, and other security considerations. Will employees be allowed to print documents off site or email them from the mobile device? These considerations are especially critical in industries where privacy is such a great concern, such as business which deal with sensitive financial or health information.
Today, security is a two-way street. Along with the security policies to protect your company, be sure there are measures in place to protect the employee from the network. Nobody wants to clobber the photos of Bob’s new baby or the vacation plans Sue spent all weekend working on. The employee’s property and privacy needs protection just as the company’s servers do.
6. Developing BYOD Policies
Generally, companies can save money by implementing BYOD programs. Employees enjoy choosing and using their own devices, and to a large extent, the help desk can be free of the responsibility of certain issues because the company issuing the phone to the employees offers customer support and warranties beyond what the help desk offers. The most common concern among IT professionals is the security issues presented. Each company has to weigh the greater productivity and employee morale with the benefits offered by lowering company expenses with a BYOD program.
Make sure your policies include the right encryption, authentication, containerization, virtualization and other security procedures to keep your network and data safe with your roaming BYOD workers. Also, make sure workers understand what the company’s policies are and what the consequences of breaking procedure are to be.
Before embarking on a BYOD program, survey your employees and your IT staff to see what issues come up and create plans to discuss each. Programs which are thoroughly researched and thoughtfully implemented are always more successful than those without a solid foundation. Offer training to any employees unfamiliar with the BYOD process, and to all IT staffers who will be charged with helping users get their own devices up and keep them running.
Happy employees are productive employees, and companies who save money end up with better profit margins. So, BYOD has the potential of being a win-win situation for your company and your employees. So long as policies and procedures assure that both your company and your employees are protected, the BYOD program is sure to be a success.