These days a lot of small to medium sized Australian businesses have, or are looking at introducing, a set of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies for employees. With the widespread popularity of smartphones, tablets and iPads, it seems to make good sense to allow employees to use these personal devices to carry out their work.
If your business is considering diving into BYOD, it’s worth weighing up both the benefits and the potential costs of such an initiative.
Benefits of BYOD
The most obvious potential advantage of BYOD is cost-effectiveness. A BYOD work environment has the potential to save money because it’s not your company’s responsibility to purchase and maintain employees’ devices – it’s theirs. BYOD doesn’t compel employees to acquire certain devices for business use, it simply takes advantage of the personal technologies that employees already own.
There’s also the familiarity factor – people tend to be most comfortable when they’re using technology that they are already familiar with, so from an employee satisfaction perspective BYOD has its pluses.
It is also reasonable to expect a boost in productivity with BYOD, as it will be easier for your people to do their work from home, while travelling or from any other non-work location.
So does all this mean that BYOD is a true win-win for company employees and management? Essentially, yes. But as with virtually any other technology-related initiative, there are potential pitfalls. And if those are not well-prepared for, your business could find itself elbow-deep in trouble.
Here are some of the things you need to do as part of your BYOD strategy.
Set up your employees’ devices
The biggest risk with BYOD is data security. If your employees are going to be using their own devices to access your company’s network you need these devices to be protected against viruses, malware, phishing scams and other data breaches. If business information makes its way into the wrong hands, the problems this will cause and the costs you will incur may very well outweigh any benefits you gain from a BYOD policy.
To help ensure data security your company should take responsibility for setting up employees’ devices. Even technically-competent, well-meaning employees may not get it right when it comes to data privacy and security. Your business should install the necessary business software, firewalls and other data protection technologies on all personal devices that will be used for work purposes.
Train your people
Employees need to be across ‘best practice’ when it comes to data security. Train your staff on how to use their devices safely, how to avoid security traps set by scammers, hackers and other cyber-criminals, and what they should do if their device is lost or stolen. Training should also include the laying down of guidelines for what is and is not acceptable work-related use of privately-owned devices.
Set parameters for data access
BYOD is definitely one area where information should be treated on a ‘need to know’ basis. Before rolling out your BYOD policy, decide who in your business needs to access company files and applications, what information they should be allowed to access and from what devices.
By allowing individual employees to only access data that is relevant to them, you help minimise the threat of – and, if it happens, the damage caused by – a security breach. The more information an employee has access to, the more data a thief or finder of a lost device can wreak havoc with. So segregate your data where necessary, make use of encryption technology and put in place procedures that enable data to be wiped out remotely.
Prepare for departing employees
A BYOD environment would be more secure if you could demand that employees hand over their devices on the day they leave the company. But obviously you can’t do that. Instead you need to prepare and run through a series of procedures for cutting off employees’ access to the company network, business email accounts and other company software programs and files. Task someone with the responsibility of following through on all this whenever an employee leaves.
Make use of Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology
A must-have for any business getting into BYOD is an MDM solution. The right MDM application will allow you to manage and monitor your BYOD environment and properly secure mobile devices and business data. There are plenty of affordable MDM solutions out there.
The bottom line
Employees are going to use their own devices for business purposes whether we like it or not. That’s the cold-hard reality. The key to an effective BYOD strategy is to treat employees’ devices as though they are company-owned property. Educate your people and safeguard your company’s data – thoroughly.