January 30, 2015
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policies are Rapidly Becoming the Norm
Companies have been hearing for years about the unstoppable trend of “bring your own device” (BYOD). Some have adopted BYOD policies in an effort to stay ahead of that trend and get an early start on reaping the benefits that come from having employees use their personal devices on the job. Other organizations have been hesitant to embrace BYOD, focusing instead on its challenges and thinking they can get by without giving in to popular demand. For those companies, avoiding BYOD may no longer be an option. According to Gartner, by 2017 roughly half of all organizations will have adopted a BYOD policy of some sort. There’s no stopping BYOD, and if businesses want to get the most out of it, they’ll need to begin their preparations now. Of particular concern is preparing their networks before employees start bringing their devices into the office.
The Challenges Brought by BYOD Policies
In truth, connecting personal devices to a business network isn’t all that different from connecting company-provided devices. The issue becomes a lot more complicated, however, as BYOD is adopted across an entire company, increasing the number of devices that IT workers need to worry about. While most people use a smartphone, they also tend to use more devices, which they can bring in for work purposes. This represents one of the biggest challenges organizations have when it comes to connecting personal devices to the network. With BYOD, when employees use their own devices, the variety of those devices is much greater than what’s seen at an organization still supplying the devices to their workers. There are many differences between an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy device, and a Windows Phone; IT personnel have to take all of that into account when preparing the network for BYOD.
Beyond the wide variety of devices, security remains a significant challenge for businesses looking to adopt BYOD. The more devices that connect to a network, the more chances cyber criminals have to gain entry into a company’s systems; each device essentially represents an entry point that can be compromised and exploited. For every added device, the risks of human error also increase. Employees make mistakes all the time, which can lead to the introduction of malware onto a network. Even if an organization is able to protect its network from outside attackers, data loss is another problem to worry about. With data becoming so valuable to companies, losing any type of data can mean a real setback for growth and success.
By now it should be easy to see that preparing a network for BYOD is far from easy. Not only do IT teams have to worry about security, they need to prepare for network density problems. The more devices connected to a network, the likelier it is for problems to crop up with regards to the speed of the network. Since employees will likely bring in more than one device, and since more devices are connecting to the Internet than ever before, businesses with BYOD policies will likely see clogged and degraded networks. Increasing the number of access points and radio waves emitting from those points can help solve the problem, but simply upgrading technology may not be enough to handle the massive influx of devices expected with BYOD.
Overcoming These Challenges
Companies still hoping to incorporate BYOD into their business strategy shouldn’t let these network challenges dissuade them from embracing BYOD. There are plenty of solutions to these issues. Mobile device management (MDM) software is one such solution, giving IT workers the ability to manage each device and control the applications each employee is using on their smartphone or tablet. Data loss prevention (DLP) tools can also help companies secure their data by keeping the most sensitive information within the boundaries set by the organization and out of the hands of criminals. A well-written BYOD policy should also not be overlooked since it can outline acceptable behavior for employees while at work, thereby decreasing the security risks associated with BYOD.
There’s much to be gained from adopting BYOD, but making the transition is not necessarily an easy thing to do. Each organization will have to prepare their networks beforehand or else face difficult problems in the future. Starting now is practically a requirement, because after BYOD becomes the mainstream strategy, businesses will then have to worry about the Internet of Things, which connects even more devices to the network. If companies prepare for BYOD early, the benefits will be there from the beginning, and they’ll be ready to adopt other useful trends in the years to come.
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