BYOD - Pandora's Box or Treasure Chest?

BYOD has become commonplace in education but less so in business. Some companies have adopted elements of BYOD and some have dived in head first.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) allows people to bring their own IT hardware into an organisation to carry out work. This practice has become commonplace in education but less so in business. Some companies have adopted elements of BYOD and some have dived in head first.

Although BYOD appears to be a ‘no-brainer’ to budget-conscious organisations, it stirs up a hornet’s nest of potential compromises. Having seen this concept develop from grass-roots with youngsters who are now entering the workplace, Martin Scudder, Virtualisation Specialist at Lynx Networks, spelled out the implications that organisations need to urgently consider.

Benefits

BYOD should only be introduced if you are certain that it will produce a measurable benefit. If you run with this idea, creating a BYOD working-practice policy is essential before implementing anything.

Ownership brings a stronger sense of responsibility, so most individuals look after the technology they own more carefully than that owned by the company. A BYOD practice increases product lifecycles, reducing disruption, repair costs and replacement cycles.

BYOD is also likely to entice staff to be more flexible about where and how they work. A BYOD policy allows them to use time that would otherwise be unproductive – the weekend for example.

Policy

A working-practice policy should ensure that familiarity of a phone or tablet, for example, doesn’t hinder efficiency. It could include:

1) Minimum software and hardware specs – including age.

2) An outline of the support and maintenance for a predetermined list of technologies (according to your IT support capabilities) provided by you and expected from the device’s owner.

3) Whether there will be a financial agreement to assist with purchasing the device, and the responsibilities that accompany this.

4) Compatibility stipulations – personally-owned devices need to be compatible with your system for a BYOD model to work.

5) If a device breaks or malfunctions, would this be an acceptable reason to be excused from deadlines? Although companies usually purchase maintenance contracts when they buy technology, individuals often do not.

6) A list of prescribed applications, e.g. anti-virus software.

7) A clear description of the environments in which people are allowed to work for your organisations. For example, should they work with highly confidential information in public areas?

8) Whether or not individuals can access their own applications and services while at work.

Many students are happy to use their own technology in order to complete coursework but employees generally expect something back. One trend of BYOD is that staff tend to spend more than they are given – which, over an entire workforce, could yield an impressive benefit.

Infrastructure and Security

The primary impact of BYOD on any organisation’s infrastructure is that modern tablets and smartphones are designed for wireless networks. This begs the question: Does your core network have the bandwidth to cope?

In a BYOD environment, security is crucial. (Do you need to limit the information people can access through their own devices when they are at home and/or when they are at work?) BYOD also brings an enormous responsibility for organisations to protect users’ personal data (stored on their own devices) from others logged on to the network.

We work extremely closely with industry leaders who are looking at new ways to track who is on your network, what they are using and what information they are trying to access. At present, we allow and decline permissions as necessary, but this is an area which I expect to rapidly develop within the next few years.

Is it worth it?

I believe BYOD will continue to grow. Ignore it, and it will run wild and cause damage; accept it and put a plan in place, and your organisation will benefit.

The human element is the most powerful part of BYOD. The handsets, tablets and laptops that individuals buy reflect how they aspire to behave. Once the device is up and running, the new owner feels satisfied and spends time learning how to use it. Introduce this technology into work and you have staff who are experts in using their own technology, happy to use their chosen ‘widgets’ and be more productive.

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