BYOD: Business, pleasure or both?
It’s self-explanatory and is another sign of the digital times we live in, whereby an organization’s staff already have smart phones, tablets and laptops that can efficiently perform organizational tasks.
Up till around four or five years ago, IT departments would have to ‘upgrade’ or ‘migrate’ staff phones to Blackberrys and provide them with a standard specification laptop PC for work on-the-move. But today, with the revolution in mobility coupled with open systems and standardized ‘software protocols’, any employee with a device running the latest Android, iOS, Windows or Blackberry system can just bring it into the office, gain network access, and just start working.
This means that the era of tight network security is over and, as you would expect, many companies surveyed in studies have reported some sort of data breach or loss due to BYOD. Unauthorized network access by family or friends of the staff, data or device loss and other issues are emerging. It’s also lowered network defenses against hackers and cyber-criminals.
So, clearly, this trend is somewhat of a nightmare for IT heads and a challenge for finance departments due too to the additional costs of security and compliance. So, why then are we adopting BYOD? Simply, you can't block this trend, but it requires a delicate balance between productivity and security.
BYOD helps employees be more productive. It improves their morale and job satisfaction, making the company seem a ‘more flexible and attractive’ place to work. It therefore helps attract and retain talented ‘digital age workers’, and therefore resembles another by-product of having to deal with Generation Y workers. It’s a cultural and technological shift.
Surprisingly, we in the Middle East are leading in this ‘shift’. Various studies reveal that our region has ‘the highest occurrence of BYOD worldwide at 80%’. I suppose that means we’ve also got the hardest job organizing the use of such devices!
What’s more, when formulating a BYOD policy, organizations need to think of how it could affect staff.
Apparently, there is a ‘dark side’ to BYOD from the perspective of employees.
Think about it for a minute. If it’s your personal and work phone (or tablet), there’s a chance you’ll go through the unpleasant experience of your company one seizing it one day along with your ‘personal data’!
That’s why organizations now have policies to enable quitting staff to keep their devices, if they’ve had them for a minimum duration of time (usually two to three years) or to allow staff to buy the device at a depreciated rate. Otherwise, a full erase of all data is the standard practice upon handing it back.
However, there are situations whereby the data on your device is required to solve a business or legal problem. In such a case, you must hand over your device for third party examination. If and when that happens, information exposed could include the history of the websites you’ve visited, songs and movies downloaded, some financial transactions or statements, various social media accounts and more. So, beware!
That’s why there’s an ongoing discussion regarding solutions that serve both companies and employees.
From the perspective of an IT manager, solutions can start with the simple matter of establishing clear policies regarding devices and can go all the way up to applying Virtualization, in which no corporate data resides on the employee’s device as everything is happening inside the IT data center upon logging in and stays there after logging out. It’s really a shift to human-centric IT services.
Continued growth in BYOD means many things to the technology industry as a whole. It means the PC is no longer the main business device and it means that big enterprise software is being ‘consumerized’ through web-based access and mobile applications. Therefore, such software solutions should be redeveloped to work well across all these devices and operating systems, with attention to security considerations and much more.
That’s why industry analysts believe that BYOD will change the face of IT in 2013. The only question remaining is: Will you BYOD or not?