The Good and Bad of BYOD

By Stephanie Blanchard, Assistant Editor — June 10, 2013

BYOD is not just a catchphrase, but an enterprise reality. And it’s not just because employees enjoy owning the latest devices, but they are using them to increase productivity and effectively communicate, whether through emails or sharing corporate data. However, along with the new reality comes concerns and challenges, specifically involving security, application use and device compatibility.

According to research released by BT Global Services and Cisco, nearly 70% of companies see infrastructure, cost and security to be the main challenges to implementing BYOD. The report, titled, “Beyond Your Device” covers 13 regions, but here is the relevant information regarding U.S. businesses.

No to BYOD
Security, including malware and viruses, is the most cited reason (82%) for why BYOD is not allowed. Considering that one quarter of companies surveyed have already experienced a security breach due to unauthorized devices, this is not surprising.

Security concerns are followed by cost (78%) and a lack of infrastructure to support BYOD (67%). In addition, almost half, 49%, think a BYOD policy will negatively impact compliance or auditing obligations.

For those that do have BYOD, 51% say the biggest challenge is managing different regions which allow varying policies. This is followed by a lack of control over devices (45%) and mobile device theft (40%). Unauthorized data distribution is another concern, mentioned by 43% of respondents, and employees taking corporate information with them when they leave the company (39%).

Going further, for those who have strict BYOD policies (remote wipes, anti-virus software, approved apps and devices only, etc.), 27% are still unable to determine if employees are complying with company regulations, and 25% can’t tell what an employee is actually doing with their own device on the corporate network — work or personal.

Data and Apps
As smart devices have increased in usage globally, so has the demand for bandwidth to accommodate those devices, resulting in a literal lag in some cases. Of those surveyed, more than half (56%) of IT managers have noticed a performance decline in some applications, while 46% of workers with Wi-Fi access in their office have experienced delays logging on.

As a result, productivity is affected. This is confirmed by the recent iPass Mobile Workforce Report, released in June, which shows 41% of employees are unproductive for a good 10% of their workday when wireless is lacking. This is the equivalent to “251 lost hours, or more than one month of lost productivity, per year per worker.” When 18% of mobile workers are unproductive for 25% of their day, the loss can pile up.

(For additional wireless coverage concerns, refer to Mobile Enterprise’s cover story from earlier this year, Keeping It Connected.)

Just as performance is a problem, when employees are using their own devices, and apps, security is a major concern. The App Reputation Report, by Appthority, says that almost 80% of the top (free) iOS and Android apps can access corporate data. Most free apps also send and receive data without encryption and share data with third parties for advertising and analytics purposes. Entertainment apps topped the list for those that track for location and share info.

Bottom Line Benefits
Although most companies are not at the absolute beginning stage of mobility — meaning, they are just now incorporating technology into the business process — many are still lagging behind when it comes to adopting BYOD policy.

The BT/Cisco survey shows that 49% of U.S. organizations are likely to have policies in place, but that still leaves more than half without a plan. Fortunately, out of those companies, 43% plan to institute policy within two years, but a good 57% have no intentions.

How is it then, that a majority also cite benefits of BYOD? Respondents to “Beyond Your Device” said that BYOD:

  • Enables employees to be more productive (68%)
  • Enables employees to better serve customers (52%)
  • Improves employee work/life balance (58%)
  • Helps to attract and retain top talent (42%)
  • Enables employees to work more flexibly (39%)
Interestingly, 35% of the iPass Mobile Workforce Report respondents cite BYOD policy as a reason to choose an employer. But if productivity, effective communication or top talent is not the immediate incentive, try “competitive advantage.”

The BT/Cisco survey shows that 84% of IT managers globally think it offers as much, with 31% saying it BYOD policy actually offers a “significant advantage.” Yet, out of those not instituting BYOD, 71% say it offers low ROI.

And finally, the research from “Beyond Your Device” shows an alarming 26% of employees are not aware of the risks to corporate data when using personal devices. Once a BYOD policy is in place, it is imperative that employees understand that the policy exists and what those rules actually are. Enterprises must come to terms with risk versus benefit or the risks become greater.

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