Friday Thought: Is BYOD Right for Your Business?

A new trend is emerging in corporate IT that may make sense for small and mid-size businesses:  BYOD, or Bring-Your-Own-Device.  Companies with BYOD policies allow workers to pick their own smartphones, tablets, and, in some cases, laptop computers.  Most BYOD policies provide a fixed stipend for each type of device with employees free to spend more personally for a better device.

Recent articles in the New York Times and on SmarterTechnology.com have focused on this trend.   For large companies, BYOD policies …

  • Save money on purchases as employees often pick up part of the cost for better devices
  • Reduce demand on IT staff as BYOD employees often turn to other sources for help
  • Overcome the “my technology at home is better than at the office” syndrome

The challenge, of course, is security.  Not just access control, but virus and malware protection require standards and verification.

As more small and mid-size businesses move into the cloud, BYOD will make sense for smaller businesses as well.  Cloud computing solutions are more likely to be device independent, enabling users to pick their preferred smartphone, tablet, or laptop.  Google Apps, for example, provides native support for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry devices.

With BYOD, users pick the device or platform that works best for them, helping them be more productive.  As the recent articles note, colleges and universities have supported BYOD programs for some time with good results.  Users pick devices that best serve their needs, IT facilitates connectivity and support.

BYOD shifts some of the responsibility for support to the end user, so IT departments would be wise to ensure that end user support is available from key software and cloud solution vendors or resellers.   End users may turn to Apple for help with their iPad 2, but will need guidance from IT for issues of connectivity to applications and services.  Tier 2 support from the vendors or resellers should be a cost effective means to reduce demand for IT support.

The IT team needs to be prepared to help users navigate vendor support and, more importantly, configure devices to keep business and personal accounts separate.   And, if necessary, new SSO and identity management tools are available for smartphones and tablets.  While these tools add cost and a management layer, they can provide provide a level of security that may be appropriate whether the device is owned by the company or the employee.

Finally, a solid “usage” policy should be in place governing the use of company computing resources and how personal equipment and software may and may not be used for company business.  Having a policy in place sets guidelines and boundaries that will keep a BYOD program from getting out of hand.

With a sound set of usage policies and a reasonable stipend, BYOD can help small and mid-size businesses increase productivity.

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