The Advantages and Disadvantages of Bring Your Own Device
If you’re running a small business you’ll be aware of the costs of the constant updates to technology. Staff requesting the latest phone, tablet or laptop, and complaining that the ‘outdated’ technology you bought a year ago is hampering them are a constant headache. We’ve even heard of staff moving to rivals for the latest gadget!
One way to address these issues is by allowing employees to use their own devices. This is called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and aims to reduce costs and increase productivity in small businesses. However simply telling staff to use their own stuff won’t quite cut it.
The introduction of BYOD needs to be controlled with a clear policy and careful consideration of security. You will also need to consider your IT Support arrangements. Some providers might not support devices that don’t belong to the business.
Why Bring Your Own Device?
According to figures from Statista by 2018 45% of UK businesses were using BYOD. Various sources estimate this had increased to around 60% by the beginning of 2020. At least 20% of those using their own device for work are doing so despite the business having policies forbidding it.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the huge increase in working from home this figure is now likely to be much higher. The sudden move to working from home also mean that many moved to using personal devices without policies in place, and with no adequate security provision.
Devices are becoming more and more personal. Trying to dictate which devices employees use is like telling them what brand of pen to use. Individuals are self-sufficient when it comes to IT. They already own their own smart phone, tablet and laptop. These can often be newer and have a higher spec than those purchased by a cost conscious small business. Whilst it might be easier to provide approved hardware and software, employees may not be willing to accept it. It’s probably best to embrace BYOD and understand the benefits and control the risks.
The Benefits of Bring Your Own Device
For a small business one of the most significant advantages is a reduction in costs. Hardware spend and software licensing can be reduced. Companies may also notice increased employee satisfaction as staff are able to work more flexibly. Productivity often increases with staff using technology more familiar to them. Using portable devices for work tasks saves employees 58 minutes per day while increasing productivity by 34% (Frost & Sullivan)
Offering BYOD can also help attract the best talent. Top performing applicants often demand a level of flexibility that BYOD can bring. You are also likely to see improved communication, with staff available outside hours to answer emails and complete other tasks.
BYOD can also put less stress on your IT systems. Individuals are often more conscientious when looking after their own device. This means less strain on your IT department or partner.
What’s The Downside………..
Bring Your Own Device sounds great then doesn’t it? Lowers costs, happier and more productive staff and less stress on your IT systems. What’s not to like? However caution is advised. Businesses need to consider the full implications of allowing their data to be accessed on personal devices that they could have little or no control over.
Arguably the biggest risk is having no BYOD policy in place. Simply allowing employees to bring in their phone, tablet or laptop and giving them access to all the company’s systems and data is not the way to implement BYOD!
Security is of course a risk and of paramount importance. You need to guard against data loss or leakage. As a minimum devices will need passcodes or fingerprint unlocking, anti-virus and anti-malware. However, you should also be looking at Multi-Factor Authentication and Mobile Device Management Solutions which allow remote wiping.
You could consider hosted virtual desktops, effectively having two different spaces on a personal device, one for personal use and one for work. Speak to your IT Support Provider about what solutions are available and what might suit you.
OK, What’s Next?
If you’re going to implement a Bring Your Own Device solution it might be beneficial to start with an audit. Find out what devices people are already using and what they are likely to use. Knowing what operating systems and different devices you are dealing with will help in planning what solutions are required.
Once you know what you are dealing with you can start to put together your BYOD policy. An effective policy should cover the following:
- Acceptable use
- Authorised devices
We wouldn’t recommend using a generic policy, it really must be tailored to the business and the way in which it operates. However if you want some guidance to get yourself started then the National Cyber Security Centre has produced some helpful guidance. You can also download templates from the web. We would stress this should be a kicking off point only.
Security and Management Software
In terms of security you will need to find solutions that can be used across different platforms as you may have users on Android, Apple and Windows systems. Speak to your IT Support Provider about what solutions are available and what might suit you.
Mobile Device Management Software (MDM) is a software suite for managing mobile devices.
For those that are already using the Microsoft ecosystem then Microsoft Intune is a good option. Intune is priced on a per user rather than per device basis, so if you have individuals with a phone, laptop and tablet this might prove cheaper. Intune is included in some Microsoft365 licencing packages – speak to your provider to find out if you already have it.
There are some affordable, low maintenance MDM products that can be used in a smaller business to strengthen security and manage data. Codeproof have a ‘Professional’ level which will cover the needs of most SME’s and costs from $3.99 per month, per device or $39.99 per year, per device. Codeproof offer a free 14 day trial. Hexnode is unique in that it is focused solely on the SME market. Prices start from $1 per month, per device and bespoke packages are available.
Bring Your Own Device shouldn’t be taken lightly. However it has the potential to save money and increase productivity so it certainly shouldn’t be dismissed. As with any decision it’s worth carrying out an assessment of the risk and benefits. But it’s likely that you’re going to be dealing with employees using their own devices sooner or later. Certainly, if you are a business that’s growing, or planning to grow, it might be sensible to put the building blocks in place with a policy and software solutions that can scale with your business.
Speak to your IT Support Provider about your options. They may have some solutions that they can recommend. Remember they are unlikely to support personal devices if this is not pre-agreed. It would be sensible to involve them in your discussions.
How we can help
As with any technical solution, we’d recommend talking to an expert.
If you’ve stumbled into BYOD due to the pandemic it’s not too late to develop a policy, implement it and put in place some technical controls to protect your business.
If you’d like to ask us a question about Bring Your Own Device it’s easy to book a 15-minute call with us – just click HERE.
We can also carry out a free, no obligation Managed IT Assessment to really help you decide what the best solution is for your business.
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