Technology is changing so quickly these days that your business environment can evolve right under your nose, before you’ve even noticed. One of the biggest changes that has happened in recent years is Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, which is when employees use their own devices, either on company premises or to access company resources from home or the road. A decade ago, people with personal cell phones used them to just take work calls when needed. Now, practically everyone has a smartphone and/or tablet with email access, work-related apps, and download capabilities.
Some businesses saw it coming a mile away and addressed it with clear, deliberate strategies and well-considered policies. But more often than not, it’s been ad hoc, with employees casually setting up work email on their personal phones and laptops, or accessing business cloud storage platforms from their phones or tablets.
As a decision-maker, you’d be wise to actively decide how your business will handle it. Will you allow BYOD as long as employees follow a set policy, or will you insist on your team members using employer-provided devices?
First, you need to know what the pros and cons are. Is this even a problem that needs solving, or are companies just being paranoid?
The Clear Benefits of BYOD
There are plenty of reasons to allow employees to bring their own devices into their work environment. It provides more flexibility to employees, allowing them to work when they feel inspired, access files when an emergency comes up, and work with the devices they feel most confident and comfortable using, rather than adjusting to, for example, Windows products at work while using Apple devices at home.
Relying on the same device for work and personal use can also help alleviate small inconveniences, like going home for the weekend and realizing you forgot to send yourself an important file that is stored on the workplace desktop (although this can also be solved through cloud storage solutions).
Your employees may enjoy small perks like having the use of expensive workplace software on their personal devices while being part of your team. If bringing their own devices makes your team more productive, efficient, and happy, it may be worth considering.
Another benefit of BYOD is potential cost savings. Instead of buying new hardware when you onboard employees, through implementing BYOD you may only need to cover supplemental software costs that get them up and running, and avoid lost productivity as the employee will not have to adjust to a new, unfamiliar device.
Be aware, though, that there can be hidden real costs, and there are certainly inherent risks.
In addition to those actual costs – such as surprise replacements if their own devices aren’t as reliable as your corporate-quality equipment – it can also open you up to other problems.
Users tend to be more lax in security protocols for their own devices, and your business can end up paying the price for innocent mistakes made by your employees. Without proper cybersecurity practices in place, BYOD can leave your business network infected by viruses or infiltrated by hackers.
When a team member leaves the company, they bring their device with them, and may forget to delete or turn over sensitive business information like passwords. You might end up with a legal issue if you are subject to privacy or data protection regulations, like HIPAA. And if your salesperson owns their own cell phone number, and they take it away with them, what number are your customers going to call when they want to place an order? Perhaps that salesperson’s cell phone, which they’re now using in their new job with your competition.
Finally, if their phone or PC needs technical support, who’s responsible for that cost? It’s possible that your IT company has expert knowledge in one type of device, but would be starting from scratch with a less common type and would have a learning curve. Or if an employee’s personal activities are the cause of their laptop’s meltdown, who’s going to pay for that support ticket? It can be confusing to sort through.
None of these risks are deal-breakers, but if you are going to allow BYOD, you need a set policy with guidelines for your team to follow. There is a good chance that your team is already using their own devices without realizing they could be putting your company at risk. It is time to take action.
Here are a few guidelines to get you started.
- The same rules should apply to everyone. If the administrative assistant has to follow security protocols, so does the CEO. It’s fair, and it signals that the rules are to be taken seriously.
- Use plain English in your policies, and make them ubiquitous. You’re going to have to explain it with every employee, probably multiple times as people cycle through devices over the years. They should go in the handbook, on your bulletin boards, and give reminders every so often.
- Make security and data protection a priority. Whatever rules apply to corporate equipment should also apply to personal equipment. Passwords should be strong and changed often, backups should be automated, and care should be taken to limit theft opportunities.
- Consider having your IT team check out each device to ensure it’s not arriving into the network already loaded with viruses, and to make sure the performance is adequate for the business need. Making it required to receive explicit approval before using personal devices can ensure that each one is reviewed for risks, and the policies explained again.
- Spell out who pays for what. Include software and apps, support and repairs, and upgrades. The time to decide who pays is not after the laptop is dropped.
- Finally, lay out the procedures when someone leaves the company. Be specific about what the company will require, and double-check that company data is removed from personal equipment whenever feasible.
Armed with this information, how do you move forward? Your first step is to call Longleaf. We will help you explore the pros and cons of BYOD and identify whether it makes sense for your unique business. If it does, we will help you find the right tools and software to stay safe, and work with you to build a policy for your team to follow. Contact Longleaf today to get started!