BYOD gets more complicated

Ben Taylor

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) appears to be facing an imminent backlash.

The sudden consumer popularity of smartphones and tablet devices is a great example of a fast advance in technology not providing companies with enough time to think through all the related implications.

BYODBYOD, and all of its ramifications, crept up upon companies and IT specialists alike. To begin with, a few people starting arriving at work with new iPhones and similar devices, and obviously wanted to use them to access their business email and other information.

Companies clearly saw the benefit in this. Making staff almost permanently available no longer meant paying huge company cellphone bills and installing and maintaining Blackberry Enterprise Servers. Instead, the staff were coming in with devices of their own and wanting to connect them to the business.

Then, of course, everything snowballed. Owning a smartphone or tablet rapidly became the norm for many individuals, instead of just a few. At around this point Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) was born.

A Fine Line

BYOD has always been about drawing a line between ensuring the privacy and security needs of the business, and at the same time protecting the privacy of individual staff and respecting the fact that they are using an (often valuable) device of their own for company business.

Unfortunately, that line has always been somewhat blurred. The official implementation of BYOD in a company usually involves the use of some kind of Mobile Device Management (MDM) software. This software gives the company plenty of device control – and rightly so, because if a company’s data is at stake, they need the right to maintain jurisdiction over it. But, in many cases, the MDM solution in place also gives the company access to personal data.

Where does this leave the users? Many will simply sign the BYOD policy. Some many even feel that they have no option, especially if they’ve recently started a new job and want to be seen to tow the line. In other cases, users may object to giving any control of their own tech to their IT department, and take the attitude that if their employer wants them to have mobile communication, they should pay for it and provide the device. Anecdotally, this is happening more and more.

Legal Issues

Now, things have got even more complicated, with a report on CIO.com saying that BYOD “done wrong” could put both employers AND employees at risk.

Employers could be prosecuted under labor regulations if BYOD policies are taken too far. Meanwhile employees could feel unfairly obliged to sign up for BYOD. The legal ramifications detailed in the article are US-centric in nature, but could prove equally relevant in other countries.

So with all this in mind, it seems likely that many people are going to begin to get itchy feet about BYOD. We may even see a trend back in the direction of “company phones” and people carrying two devices at once. In the meantime, the best advice is to take another look at your client’s BYOD policies – that fine line we mentioned earlier seems to get finer all the time.

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If you are looking for advice about BYOD why not sign up for a free trial and ask your account manager about Building Blocks to find out more!