BYOD or “bring your own device” entered the lexicon in the mid part of the first decade of the new century when it was mentioned in a paper by Ballegas et al at UBICOMP 2005. By 2009, the movement had gained some momentum as employees at Intel began bringing their own devices to work and use them to connect to the corporate network. By 2012, the United States Equal Opportunity Commission had adopted a BYOD policy. Despite this, many employees balked at the trend due to concerns about billing and the scarcity of alternate devices.
According to a Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group survey on mobile device usage, nearly 89% of IT departments worldwide have adopted bring your own device policies. The trend is more popular in Asia, Latin America, and the United States. European companies tend to be slower to adopt the trend.
Benefits of the Trend
But what makes the bring your own device movement so attractive to those where the practice is prevalent? What are the benefits of BYOD?
In short, BYOD can encourage employees to be more productive. With more and more businesses implementing BYOD policies, more employers are telling employees to BYOD it. Doing so is believed to improve employee morale and promote added convenience for employees by letting them use their own devices, adding to the quality of work/life balance.
Perhaps most importantly, it gives those companies adopting BYOD policies the look of flexibility, making them more attractive to prospective talent and providing the business with a competitive edge over others in the industry in this saturated labor market. Moreover, employees are more comfortable with their personal devices and thus more prone to innovation. By adopting BYOD policies, an employer can even benefit from cost savings as the financial burden of the technology falls on the shoulders of the owner: the employee. The employee is also far more likely to keep up with upgrades to latest hardware, thereby saving the company more money.
Risks Involved with the Trend
Permitting employees to use their own devices comes with some inherent risks. First and foremost, there are the security concerns and the need for greater IT support. BYOD requires better mobile policies. Data breaches have occurred. For instance, an employee uses her smartphone to access the company networks and sensitive information contained therein and then loses the phone, nefarious parties could retrieve the phone and acquire any unsecured data contained in the device. Or an employee departs the company but does not return the device, leaving sensitive company applications present on the device and open to abuse.
One final risk is the issue of phone number ownership. When a customer-facing employee leaves a company and takes his device with him, the problem arises that any customer calling that number believing to be contacting the company is in fact contacting a potential competitor.
These security roadblocks are dealt with by using mobile device management software and programs like Google Voice to change an employee’s phone number to a different number.
Weighing the Benefits and the Risks
In the changing landscape of business, employers must strike a tenuous balance in order to succeed. Bring your own device practices certainly can attract motivated talent, but at what cost to the security of the virtual infrastructure? Employers don’t want to be seen using Gestapo tactics but they need to protect their proprietary information from falling into the wrong hands. In short, employers must provide clear and comprehensive policies and processes that mitigate risks to the business yet do not handicap the benefits enjoyed by employees.
BYOD is not a peripheral or short-term movement; it is here to stay whether an employer has a BYOD policy in place or not.
Author Bio: Jessica is a freelance journalist who loves to cover technology news and the ways that technology makes life easier. She also blogs at FreshlyTechy.com. Check her out on Twitter @TechyJessy.