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The rise of Bring Your Own Device: The pros and cons of a BYOD policy by Oliver Rowe , MD of Fusion Communications

With more companies now adopting remote and hybrid working practices, many have chosen to implement a Bring Your Own Device [BYOD] policy that allows employees to use their own personal laptops, smartphones and tablets for work.

While this kind of policy can have several benefits for businesses, especially smaller companies operating on tighter budgets, it is not entirely without risk, and employers should be aware of the potential security, IT support and data protection issues before implementing such a policy.

Here are some of the key points surrounding the pros and cons of BYOD, and some potential issues to be aware of should you choose to implement this in your own company.

Advantages of BYOD

The familiarity that comes with allowing employees to use their own devices is one of the greatest benefits of a BYOD policy. Employees can complete work tasks with increased ease and efficiency, eliminating the learning curve of getting to grips with a new piece of technology.

A BYOD policy can be a boon to employee satisfaction, as it not only allows them to work flexibly, but also considers preferences for different systems, such as Windows or Apple, and enables a greater choice of devices.

Encouraging employees to use their own smartphones allows employers to tap into the increased productivity associated with mobile technology in general, including enhanced portability and employee availability, which has become more important than ever in an age of remote work where employee visibility is reduced.

Furthermore, the benefits of a BYOD policy from a cost perspective cannot be overstated. Allowing employees to use their own devices can create a huge saving on hardware and software licensing costs, as businesses do not need to purchase devices for each of their employees, and this can make a huge difference to smaller or newly established businesses.

Disadvantages of BYOD

Allowing employees to access company information whilst working from home or keeping it on personal storage devices such as USB sticks can have serious implications for data protection and GDPR compliance. Many of these devices lack the appropriate security and technical safeguards to keep data secure, and this can lead to sensitive data being compromised, or personal and company data becoming mixed.

A BYOD policy also means employers are relinquishing an element of control over how devices are used. While a business can set guidelines for how a company device should be utilised, this becomes more difficult when an employee is using their own personal device.

Likewise, a BYOD policy that leads to employees using a variety of different devices instead of a standard-issue company smartphone or laptop can become a burden on IT support systems, as they will need to function across a range of different devices and applications.

Another potential issue that employers should be aware of is data retrieval in the event of an employee leaving the company. If they have been using their personal devices for work related tasks, they may still have access to company data and other sensitive information and, as such, there should always be a plan in place to retrieve this data to prevent a compromise or breach.

Successfully implementing BYOD

Though there are several challenges associated with a BYOD policy, the flexibility and boost to efficiency and productivity that it can bring to a remote workforce is invaluable, and there are steps which can be taken to address the limitations of employees using personal devices.

Implementing advanced communication solutions such as Secure Device Management can allow businesses to mitigate some of the bigger issues surrounding BYOD, by providing services such as device configuration, updates and maintenance, while reducing security risks and meeting regulatory requirements such as data protection and GDPR.

An efficient Mobile Device Management system allows businesses to reap the benefits of a mobile workforce while keeping smart devices safe from threats. It can provide employers with invaluable analytics and diagnostic reports that help mitigate issues surrounding reduced visibility of employees and appropriate use of devices during work hours.

While having the appropriate infrastructure in place to handle the use of personal devices is crucial, it is also important that businesses provide a comprehensive, written BYOD policy that outlines both the employer and employees’ responsibilities regarding the use of personal devices. This may include what constitutes acceptable use, security measures that are to be put in place, for example, encryption of company data, and termination of access in the event of non-compliance.

Conclusion

With remote and hybrid working here to stay, there has been an inevitable rise in the number of employees using their own devices for work. While this does pose certain challenges to security and compliance, a BYOD policy that takes these risks into account, and has a robust technological infrastructure in place to support it, can allow employers to enjoy the benefits of allowing their employees to use their own devices, while mitigating against any potential risks.

Oliver Rowe is managing director of Fusion Communications

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2020