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BYOD 101

How many of your employees check their email on their phone? Access documents from their personal computer? Transfer their data on a shared machine?

The number might be higher than you expect. According to a survey by Cisco, 90% of Americans use their own smartphones for work. Clearly, BYOD is here to stay. With its current trajectory, Gartner predicts that by 2017, 50% of employers will ask employees to supply their own work devices.

As many businesses know, this new model is a double-edged sword. BYOD is more convenient for users, saving them from carrying separate devices for work and personal use. Its other benefits include expanding access, increasing employee satisfaction and reducing costs.

However, there are many risks also involved that prevent adoption—which is why so many users are still carrying around multiple devices. Security risks are associated with giving employees the freedom of utilizing their personal tablets, and under new regulatory measures companies could be liable for breaches. There’s also the strain on the IT department as they attempt to give access to company information on a multitude of devices.

Whether you are jumping on the bandwagon, or well into supporting BYOD, here are fundamentals:

Prep Your IT Department
First and foremost, the IT department must be on board and be able to accept the challenges associated with BYOD. The rise of BYOD brings on new, complex tasks for IT. Rather than managing one type of device, IT is now faced with managing a variety of unsecured devices.

In fact, in a study, 51% of employees say they connect to an unsecure network when accessing work data from their personal phones and tablets. IT departments need to consider setting up antivirus software for all the devices as well as have a way to monitor where the devices are and what data is being accessed or downloaded by the user at all times.

BYOD Policy
An extensive BYOD policy needs to be in place that clearly outlines the rules and protocol of the initiative. Employees should make sure that any questions and concerns are addressed in the policy. For example, who is responsible for device maintenance, support and cost? Who should the employee contact in the event of a lost or stolen device? The policy needs to be strictly enforced to ensure that security risks are minimized and benefits of BYOD are maximized.

Are Your Employees On Board?
Having a BYOD policy in place brings up the next question, does the benefits outweigh the costs for your employees. Sure, having the flexibility to access work documents anywhere at anytime is a big perk but with so many rules and restrictions, the device may no longer feel like it belongs to them.

Often times, the IT department will put in place software that can track the whereabouts of the device, reducing employee privacy when they are not at work. Employees must also be responsible for backing up their personal data – phone numbers, photos, music etc. In the event of a lost device, the download of an authorized app or irregular activity, it may be company protocol to wipe clean of the entire device remotely. In a recent mobile metrics study, a device gets wiped clean every 3 minutes, 49% of those wipes are automated (no warning to the employee) and 37% of those are entire wipes meaning both work and personal data are cleared.

As mobile communication becomes increasingly more popular, the topic of BYOD will be something that workplaces need to seriously consider. IT teams recognize the growing need for multi-device support. However, the real question is not whether or not BYOD is needed but it is if a company, its employees and it’s IT department have the ability to meet the demands of a BYOD system.