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What Does it Mean to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)?

The increasing popularity of smart devices has had a dramatic impact on how we do everything. The clear separation between work and personal environments that once existed is quickly fading. The catalyst for this change are mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets that are now so sophisticated that they can do what desktop systems can do—from anywhere.

With all their smart technology, mobile devices have become extremely popular. Using personal devices in the workplace is a natural progression that is even taking place in organizations with highly sensitive data. A patient who visits their doctor today and needs a new medication may see their doctor looking up medical information on their smartphone. The use of personal mobile devices in the workplace is referred to by several acronyms, but BYOD (bring your own device) is the one most commonly used.

How it Works

Possessing a mobile device does not automatically grant an employee access to its organization’s network. There must first be an acceptance and then an integration plan put in place. The IT department does not usually have the final say in whether personal mobile devices are acceptable in an organization. Instead, their expertise typically lies in integrating the devices and developing the BYOD policy.

There is no one way to implement BYOD. Many organizations develop a BYOD policy that states what is and is not acceptable when using a personal device to access work applications. A very basic scenario is allowing employees to only access webmail from a mobile device. At the other extreme is unrestricted access to all business-related applications.

Benefits

If you are deciding whether to accept personal mobile devices in your organization, you may be asking yourself, “Why should I?”

There are several benefits of BYOD that can actually benefit your business:

  • Increased productivity. Employees are able to access work applications at any time anywhere they go.
  • Cost-savings. Companies are not responsible for buying the devices. They may foot the bill for a data plan that the employee accesses while at work. The savings are greatest when a mobile device is an employee’s only access to business applications.
  • Increased morale. Quite simply, employees are happier using their personal devices. The devices chosen by IT may not be the latest and greatest.

Security Concerns

There are some challenges associated with allowing personal devices in the workplace. The most significant is security. The very nature of a personal device means that people can use them to do non-work activities. What level of access do employees have to sensitive data? What happens if the device is lost or stolen? These are just a few security-related questions to consider when implementing a BYOD policy.

There are tools available that provide you some control and management of personal mobile devices, but the most important security measure is employee compliance. Employees should be trained how to protect business data and required to adhere to the BYOD policy.

The Future

Could mobile devices eventually replace desktop systems and BYOD become the norm in every industry? It’s definitely possible. If your organization chooses to implement a BYOD policy, a good plan to prepare for whatever the future holds for BYOD is to nail down your security approach and consider innovative ways to make it work without disrupting your business flow.

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