Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environments are increasing in demand and implementation, especially in enterprise-level networks. However, if your IT department is looking to add BYOD to your infrastructure, you need to know what you’re going to be up against, and whether it’s something you can make use of efficiently.
The Pros of BYOD
For anyone new to the concept, a BYOD environment is a network that is capable of supporting a wide variety of devices. Instead of providing users with a standard-issue computer, an enterprise may invite its employees and visitors to Bring their [Your] Own Device. This means that you could have a myriad of device brands and types on your network at any given time, and enterprises are willing to consider these types of environments because their demand is increasing.
There are certainly a lot of positive aspects to a BYOD environment, both for the enterprise network and the end user. As far as the enterprise is concerned, a BYOD environment reduces the hardware management exposure. If all users are bringing their own devices, then an IT department no longer needs to worry about asset tagging, asset tracking, or being concerned with a device getting stolen or lost.
Another big plus of BYOD, for the enterprise and the user, is the hope that the users are going to be happier. If a company’s users are working on their own preferred workstation, desktop, tablet, phone, or whatever, then they are likely to be more content with their work experience. If they’re content, it also stands to reason, at least theoretically, that they are probably more efficient. Even if it isn’t due to their satisfaction with the device of their choice, they are likely more productive and efficient for no other reason than they are familiar with the device they are using.
One final advantage worth mentioning is the idea of cost-efficiency. BYOD’s are often managed, at least for the company’s employees, on the basis of allowance. For example, a certain company may give an employee one-thousand dollars to purchase their computer, and while the company could have used that one-thousand dollars to get their employee a good computer, that same employee could use it to get a great computer. With bargain-shopping employees on the look-out for the latest and greatest, there exists another possibility for increased productivity by means of acquiring cutting edge devices. If the employee is responsible for procuring their own device, they’re likely to work at getting the best they can for the allotted amount.
The Cons of BYOD
As many pros as there are for BYOD, there are some challenges as well. Perhaps the greatest of all the challenges facing an IT staff that works with or is planning on implementing a BYOD environment is the question of security. Securing the data that your users access can be difficult. With a company’s staff bringing their own devices with them to access the network, it becomes difficult for an IT department to know the level of security for each device. They won’t know if a certain laptop has a virus on it because an employee’s kids were playing games, or if a smart phone has malware, and if these devices are accessing the company’s network, then they could pose a potential security threat if they aren’t managed correctly. Along with this, the company’s own applications can be at risk as well. If a user is able to download applications from the company’s network to their device, then who knows where it could go? It could wind up on the cloud, or be acquired by a breach in the security of a user’s home wireless network. The idea poses a lot of dilemmas just within these two scenarios, and these are just the tip of the iceberg.
The second challenge comes in the necessity for a diversified IT staff. As much as an IT department would hope or expect that users bringing their own devices would know how to use them, they still have to be able to support their devices. Suddenly, a helpdesk staff or support team needs to know how to support a myriad of devices, instead of just a select few. They have to be able to support the guy who wants to run Windows 8 and the other guy who is using Windows 7, they have to be versed enough in Apple products and software in order to support anyone who brings these on board, and they have to be able to deal with all the latest smartphone gadgetry and operating systems. The additional training and resources this could take is considerable.
Regardless of these dilemmas, the IT department’s hand is being forced in many ways. It’s getting to the point that many users are going to be bringing their own devices anyway, and they have a pretty convincing argument for their reasoning too. If they truly are more productive and efficient with the device of their choice, then it behooves their employer to consider accommodating that device so the employee can access what they need with it. Now this brings us back to the question posed initially: how is an IT department going to do this and still maintain their network security and integrity? Then there’s the second question: how do they do this and maintain, or even increase, efficiency at the same time.
Solutions for the World of BYOD
With the popularity of BYOD growing, the solutions for its challenges already exist, and they are developing further. The biggest move in this direction is the virtual desktop solution, where users have access to the company’s network with a virtualization solution. This way, their desktop is merely an image, and the risk to network security is minimal or altogether gone.
Another more aggressive approach is the idea of an applications-based network, where an employee accesses the applications and solutions they need much like they do in an app store. This way, if an application is compromised, becomes infected, or has a problem, it can be deactivated or suspended until a resolution is reached.
Though BYOD poses some significant challenges and dilemmas, it also offers some very promising results. If managed properly, BYOD can become a driver for efficiency and productivity in the work place.
About Josh Linton
Josh Linton is the Vice President of Technology at VLCM, which is celebrating its 30-year anniversary in 2013. In this role, Josh manages the company’s technical team that provides tech support and services to its clients. He is also responsible for evaluating and recommending new products and services to customers.
Josh graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management with an emphasis on Information Systems.