“Bring your own device,” or BYOD, is quickly growing in popularity among businesses of all sizes. There are numerous benefits and drawbacks to allowing employees to use their own hardware in the work environment. From desktop workstations to mobile devices, having a wide range of devices in your environment inherently creates complexity for administration and security. At the same time, cost savings and increases in productivity emerge, making decisions on BYOD policies complicated for IT administrators and management.
The benefits of BYOD in the enterprise are varied, but the primary advantages are as follows:
- Cost savings. Allowing employees to bring their own hardware to work means that your organization is no longer responsible for the capital outlay of purchasing new equipment for new employees or refreshing equipment for existing employees. The cost benefits are hard to dismiss. Even if you provide an allowance to employees for hardware, many of them will spend some of their own money to acquire an even better machine than the organization would have provided them. As a result, your team is working on superior hardware at reduced expense.
- Employee productivity and happiness. Dictating what laptops or cell phones your employees use means that some of them will invariably be dissatisfied. Some people prefer PCs to Macs. Some prefer Android phones to Blackberries. Letting employees choose the hardware they use means they will be more comfortable on the device they use and, frankly, happier.
- Reduced learning curve. Furthermore, a BYOD environment means that employees most often don’t have to learn a new operating system or software package to be successful. Instead of having to train a Windows user to operate OSX (for example), the user is already familiar with their tools. This means further reduced costs as training and productivity lost to user inefficiency is minimized.
Conversely, the disadvantages of a “Bring Your Own Device” policy are multiple, as well. They include:
- Security concerns. The primary objection to BYOD is the idea that myriad technologies open up security vulnerabilities that must be independently addressed. However, there has been a great deal of security maturation across most platforms in recent years. Whereas a decade ago, Blackberry/RIMM offered the gold standard for enterprise security on mobile devices, organizations like Windows, Google, Apple, Nokia, and Samsung have addressed a number of security concerns. Additionally, back-end security features within the enterprise’s network itself are able to address any intrusions or threats from the BYOD environment in a way that was previously impossible.
- Administrative complexity. If security concerns are the primary objection to BYOD in the workplace, then administrative complexity isn’t far behind. Standardized hardware and software deployments throughout the organization mean the IT support team is able to push out patches and updates to all hardware and support the environment more easily due to device familiarity. In a company where employees can bring their own devices, IT administrators must adapt to and solve significantly more challenges and problems that may arise.
- Integration challenges. New software rollouts and process workflows are substantially more challenging in a BYOD environment, but making sure all systems work optimally together is a challenge in and of itself. For example, Windows machines are currently able to operate on Office 2013, while the most current version for Macs is Office 2011. Do all of the features of one integrate perfectly with the other? What about things like instant messaging across mobile platforms or document accessibility on tablets? Integrating disparate systems can be a never-ending challenge.
- Irregular or nonexistent refresh cycles. BYOD environments actually find hardware refreshes happening more slowly than if the enterprise itself is purchasing hardware. More problematic is the fact that employees who bring their own hardware are significantly more likely to use that hardware after the warranty or support plan has elapsed, whereas most enterprises refresh hardware or extend warranties as long as the item is in use. What happens when an employees laptop crashes and it is NOT warranty supported? Who is responsible for getting them back working as soon as possible? Who pays that expense?
At the end of the day, there is no “right” or “wrong” decision regarding BYOD within your organization. Demonstrable cost-savings and increased worker comfort must be weighed against challenges created for both security and compatibility. That said, closing the door on BYOD is just as foolish as creating an anything-goes environment. The key to BYOD success is a well-defined policy that fosters buy-in by all members of an organization. The best BYOD policy promotes all of the advantages listed above while consistently minimizing the drawbacks in a way that leads to not just employee happiness, but organizational success as well. Click here to learn how Mosaic NetworX can help your company implement device compatibility and administration in a way that satisfies everyone involved.