If we have learned anything from the rapid expansion of technology over the past few years, it’s that the world of devices and mobile technology is one that is highly subjected to new trends and innovations. From the explosion of social media programs like Instagram and Twitter to the concept of “the cloud”, it seems that every year puts a new product or idea into the hands of consumers around the globe. With these new products come both the opportunity and the challenge for businesses across the globe to adeptly mold these technologies around their business structure to further increase things like sales, productivity and in some cases, employee morality.
As the plethora of these devices began to flood the market place, an interesting thing began to occur. Employees began to slowly use their own devices, often ones with access to an app store or that are WiFi enabled, to carry out their job in a more efficient manner. For instance, a nurse on the job might consult an app he or she has installed on her phone to give a more comprehensive explanation of a particular medication to a patient. Or, an accounts manager for a marketing firm might sync up his work email to his smartphone in order to get a leg up on an important change to a spread sheet or document over the weekend.
In technical jargon the shift from using workplace supplied devices to those that the employee already has in their possession is referred to as consumerizaiton. It is through this consumerization of a workforce and employees that the term “BYOD” or bring your own device was coined.
So what’s the problem? While it is true, a BYOD philosophy does have the potential to save your business money and employees often have the leg up in terms of devices that are newer, the movement is not without its shortcomings. Many industry analyst and surveys done by big name companies like to cling to the shiny selling point of BYOD lowering your IT costs and the need to constantly be replacing outdated machines and ignore the huge potential for security leaks and valuable information being compromised.
When consumeriztion such as this happens in the workplace, it often occurs at much more rapid pace than typical business growth. Each employee who is choosing to take part in a BYOD related work structure can bring to the table a different device than the next and the next and so on. When this happens, it can often leave your IT department or individual in charge of these things with a massive headache as they struggle to make security protocols and troubleshooting guides for the plethora of devices being used in the workplace. An email security protocol that works well for an Android mobile device may not translate over to an iPad or vice versa.
With all the focus on the technology, it’s interesting to note that the single biggest threat a BYOD structured business faces is not the devices that are being used, but the individuals that are using them. To combat breeches in security and valuable financial data being compromised, it becomes of the utmost importance to have your employees and teams working as a cohesive unit.
While this is certainly no big, shocking news, you might be surprised to find that the number of companies and business who have adopted some form of a BYOD policy have largely side-stepped any concrete ruling or policies on best practices for these devices.
In a study put out by McAfee, only one out of every five employers they polled who used a BYOD system reported that they had any sort of policy in place. What does this mean? Well, we can expect to see more high profile cases of big name companies falling to the hand of security leaks and information being accessed by those of whom it was not intended. Recovering from a tarnished name can take months and sometimes years to overcome.
The risks of data being compromised will always be present, no matter what medium, no matter what area of business you are operating in. The two most important things a business can do to keep information where it should be is an all-encompassing security program and a policy or handbook of approved devices and troubleshooting scenarios.
The bottom line is that BYOD and consumerization do have the potential to save money, but it’s not without a little leg work being done in the process. Today’s employee wants the same experience they have in the work place to be the same one they can have in any location. As the BYOD trend continues to grow, companies will have to continue to adapt their policies and guidelines to further accommodate this. Consumerization is not going anywhere and it will be up to each business to decide on how they will adapt as new technology and devices enter the workplace.
Software and Security Savant Kaito Mori has been devoting his time between his family of four and keeping people safe on the internet with Trend Micro and their latest securityinnovations in the age of BYOD and consumerization.