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BYOD Can Spell Trouble

Organizations that ignore setting up a BYOD policy will be at risk

Whether you choose to embrace it or you try to resist it, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend is set to grow. The Cisco IBSG Horizons Study found that 78% of white-collar workers in the U.S. use a mobile device for work purposes and 41% of respondents indicated a majority of smartphones connecting to their company network are actually employee-owned.

If you don't already have a BYOD policy then you need one right now.

The trouble is that employees will connect to your network and use their personal mobile devices for work whether you allow it or not. In the past your company network could afford to be hard on the outside and soft on the inside, but nowadays you need to be hard on the inside too.

Creating a Solid BYOD Policy
There's no one-size-fits-all solution for a problem like this. In creating a policy you have to consider what devices you'll need to support, how much access you will give them, and what kind of budget you can allocate. Do you have specific compliance issues to contend with? Are you willing to subsidize data plans or device purchases? How do you ensure company data is kept safe?

If you have an existing policy for laptops then that can be a good place to start.

Take the time to assess and weigh your employee's desires against the needs of the company. If you can get a solid agreement in place and create a user policy that your employees are happy to sign, then it should be easy sailing. Setting up a comprehensive policy will require a lot of work upfront but it will also safeguard you against disputes and problems down the line.

Is BYOD Worth the Hassle?
That same Cisco study also found that the top two perceived benefits of BYOD were "improved employee productivity (more opportunities to collaborate) and greater job satisfaction." By arming your employees with access to company tools you can certainly boost productivity.

A recent Good Technology survey found that "more than 80% of people continue working when they have left the office - for an average of seven extra hours each week - almost another full day of work."

Taking advantage of that trend and equipping those employees with access to the information and tools they need to work effectively at home makes a lot of sense.

What's the Catch?
If you're serious about BYOD then you'll need to invest time and money. The Cisco study reports that mobility initiatives are expected to grow from 17% of IT budgets in 2012 to 20% by 2014. It's not just about budgets though, you also need to consider the importance of training, and your software and hardware requirements.

Any assessment should encompass four vital best practices:

  1. MDM (Mobile Device Management) - of the 95 products on the market, which will you use and how will devices connect to your network?
  2. MAM (Mobil Application Management) - how are you going to manage corporate mobile applications?
  3. Technology - what hardware will you support and how will you support it?
  4. Training - how will you make sure your staff is up to speed?

There are so many vendors in this space and so much technology available that it can be a real minefield. Being a fast-moving industry, the latest tools age quickly.

Deciding what BYOD will look like for your company isn't enough - you also need to ensure that your IT department and your employees receive the right training to enable it all to work as intended.

Meeting Expectations
This generation expects to have access to social media. They are connected 24/7 and they are buying more and more smartphones and tablets. They will use their personal devices in the workplace whether you condone it or not so why not make sure that they have the ability to use them for work rather than play?

As the traditional division between work life and personal life breaks down, it's important that employers seize the opportunity. A solid BYOD policy sets boundaries and establishes expectations for everyone concerned. It can lead to a happier and more productive workforce and with the right planning that can be achieved without compromising data security.

More Stories By Michelle Drolet

Michelle Drolet is founder of Towerwall, a data security services provider in Framingham, MA with clients such as PerkinElmer, Smith & Wesson, Middlesex Savings Bank, Brown University and SMBs. You may reach her at [email protected]

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