Does Your Company Need a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy?
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is one of the most practical approaches to the modern mobile workforce. In fact, most employers would need to enact policies to stop the team from using their own phones and laptops for work. But there's a difference between employees texting to coordinate and interfacing with business data through their personal devices. If you choose to make employee-owned devices a relied-upon and integrated part of your business architecture, there are a few important factors to consider.
You will need to decide if BYOD policies are a good fit for your company. If so, you will then determine how to implement safe and fair BYOD policies across the board. Let's dive into the benefits, concerns, and implementations.
Benefits of BYOD
First, let's dive into the pros of integrating employee devices into your workflow. BYOD is most appealing to startups and small to medium businesses that do not have warehouses of spare equipment or large budget margins. In most cases, your employees already own devices that are up to the job and many even prefer to use their personal, familiar, devices for work and personal means.
For companies that are expanding, mobility is key. Working through mobile devices gives you the opportunity to work in and out of the office, hire remote employees and allow telecommuting, and stay location-flexible. By encouraging your employees to work with their own devices, your company gains this mobility much sooner than if you were budgeting (and sometimes shipping) company devices.
Lowered Hardware Cost
Speaking of budgeting, a unified set of company devices is a considerable investment. Many companies completely side-step this expense by inviting employees to use their own devices. Because most professionals have smartphones and other devices already, there's no need to invest in a rack of company devices that would only have employees carrying two phones.
Employees often use their phones for work on the side. By enacting BYOD policies and helping your employees configure and use their devices for work, you can increase the office's natural productivity. A good set of BYOD policies let employees know they are welcome to use devices and make them more efficient when device-use is appropriate.
Employee Device Comfort
Finally, employees are generally more comfortable and independently efficient with their own personal devices. They are familiar with the interfaces, app collection, and how to quickly take care of tasks on their own devices.
Considerations of BYOD Policies
If the benefits of a BYOD policy align with your business needs, then it's time to consider logistics and implementation. BYOD, like any policy, has strengths and weaknesses to account for as you move forward.
Employee Device Ownership
The first consideration is that you can't guarantee that every employee will have a sufficient mobile device. While it's rare, not everyone owns a smart phone, a tablet, or a laptop. Most people have at least one, but you can't necessarily require employees to buy a device or hire based on device ownership. It's important to remember this when planning to implement BYOD policies.
Lack of Standardization
Next, consider that not all employee devices will be the same. You will inevitably have devices of several brands, operating systems, and software configurations. Any operations that require devices to be the same, or similarly configured, are likely to fail. But if you don't need homogenous devices, BYOD is quite effective.
Conflicting Operating Systems
In any BYOD office it is almost inevitable that there will be both Android and Apple phones. There may even be a few smaller-brand alternatives. The trouble is that different operating systems do not work with the same apps. You will need two versions of every app and function and a way to unify functionality between operating systems.
Another concern is control and synchronization of software. From phone firewalls to accessing your work databases through a custom app, BYOD is more challenging to coordinate on a software level than company devices.
Employee-owned devices are also more challenging to keep secure. Data security is quite porous with most personal devices. Passwords are easy, we're automatically logged into everything, and loved ones learn passcodes to play phone games. In addition, people tend to be less careful about installing apps and downloads on personal devices, meaning a greater exposure to malware risk.
Initial Device Introduction
When an employee's personal device first comes into contact with your internal wifi or company data, they bring everything that was already on that phone. If the phone was insecure or carrying lurking malware, trouble can spread. It's important to have a plan for properly introducing BYOD devices to work tasks.
Ongoing Data Security
Employees are also likely to do things on heir personal devices they would not normally do with work devices. Surfing the web, chatting on social media, and browsing their local files include a few favorites. Unfortunately, some of these activities creat an ongoing data security and malware risk. This is a security gap that can be closed with the right ongoing effort.
Risk of Loss and Theft
The other thing to remember is that people treat their personal phones casually. They are left on the nightstand or kitchen counter charging overnight. They are set on tables, benches, and left in bags. Phones are lent to friends or handed to children to play with. And they are occasionally lost and stolen. This adds a physical layer of data security needed, including switchable GPS tracking and kill-switch software.
BYOD Policy Best-Practices
The fact of the matter is that almost any office can handle a BYOD policy, provided you're ready to reinforce and secure what your employees bring to the table. Most workplaces have some element of BYOD, simply because employees use their devices for work on the go. But if you want your team to truly make the most of their devices as part of the integral workflow, a few best practices are required for security and efficiency.
Separating Business and Personal - VOIP
First, make sure your employees are able to separate business from personal use of the device. Especially the phone number. While you should be able to pass around an employee's work number, their personal number should still be reserved for family and friends only. VOIP is a helpful approach, allowing you to give employees a second phone number for work while still making use of their device.
Device Security - Synchronized and Maintained
Maintaining device security with a diversity of devices and device owners is best done through routine and provided tools. Make sure everyone downloads a few basic security and malware detection-cleaning apps and uses them regularly. Consider holding regular device check-ups, in which all employee devices are cleaned of malware, security settings confirmed, and perhaps passwords changed.
IT Management Tools
Even between operating systems and models, you can synchronize the software on BYOD phones. It just takes more coordination and IT effort. In most cases, the best approach is to develop or make use of IT management tools. Management tools include custom mobile apps that can help to keep all devices secure and functional for business purposes.
Ultimately, most businesses can have a BYOD policy with the right cybersecurity and IT management tools. Whether you are a new startup or a growing enterprise, BYOD is a practical approach to the modern mobile workforce. If you're ready to build the right BYOD policies and software infrastructure for your team or have questions regarding device implementation, contact us today!