There has been a clear trend towards Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) policies at companies and government organisations around Australia and the World. This has been driven by growing unauthorised use of personal smartphones and tablets by employees to access corporate email, file servers and other organisational information.
CeBIT Managing Director Jackie Taranto has researched the global business arena and believes 10 trends including BYOD will gather force in Australia during 2012.
Organisational IT departments are usually reluctant to allow BYOD and release a Pandora’s Box of issues, however their hand has been often been forced by the sheer numbers of employees who are using personal mobile devices at work.
In many cases BYOD policies are instigated by high level executives who work long hours, often taking work home with them and find that their own tablet/smartphone allows them to work more efficiently than the organisation supplied one.
It is not uncommon for example to see Government executives with a work issued Blackberry in one pocket and a personal Android/iPhone smartphone in the other pocket.
Many organisations that have BYOD policies report that this has improved employee morale/happiness as they feel more in control of their work. In some cases it has been seen by prospective employees as an attractive differentiating factor.
Really long BYOD policies are likely to result in employees flouting the rules and using personal devices at work anyway. Therefore a policy should have basic minimum standards that a BYOD device must abide by to be allowed into the organisation. These are some examples: supporting data encryption, password protection, locking after more than say 5 failed access attempts.
BYOD may be seen as a cost cutting method. However that isn’t necessarily the case.
Some organisations like Cisco say their cost savings from BYOD are about 17-22%. “We don’t pay for it, and our users are happier, Isn’t that a beautiful thing?”" said Lance Perry, Cisco’s vice president of IT, customer strategy and success at the Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise Conference and Expo in San Francisco last month.
However for companies that allow employees to claim back the cost of some/all of their BYOD monthly plan fee this can be a nightmare to administrate claims that come attached to a myriad of PDF, paper and email personal mobile/tablet bills.
Organisations can buy smartphones and tablets in bulk at discounted volume prices. The same applies for Data/Voice/SMS plans. If employees are buying devices of their choice then these will be at much higher retail prices for devices and Data/Voice/SMS.
Deployment and Management
When mobile devices are purchased as a group order from one source data like phone numbers, mobile carrier and IMEI’s can easily be added to the organisational mobile device management system. BYOD means this has to be be done on an ad-hoc basis.
Also this management system can be optimised around one platform, whereas BYOD requires being able to provision and manage a bewildering array of devices of all shapes, sizes and capabilities.
When it comes to security organisations take different approaches, some mandate that a mobile device be completely wiped if is lost or the employee is leaving the company. However this approach understandably results in unhappy employees if they haven’t been tech savvy enough to make regular backups.
Other organisations are taking a different tack, letting BYOD devices access data through a VPN, not storing any of their data on BYOD devices at all or storing it in a secure sandbox area of the phone’s storage which can be remotely wiped.
It may seem to CIO’s that BYOD will mean the organisations IT help desk won’t need to help these employees but is this realistic or safe? Should employees be expected to take their phone back to a Telstra shop or Apple Store to get repairs done?
IT is in a tricky situation because they can’t make employees purchase any particular device but inevitably they will be in charge of learning how to support the incoming flood of varied BYOD devices without any extra budget.