Bring your own device – the good, the bad, and the solution

Smartphones and laptops are pretty ubiquitous across much of the world today, with smartphone penetration in the UK and other developed countries already well above 90 per cent. The majority of us buy these devices to take photos, browse the web, and stay in contact with our friends and family, but an increasing number of us are also using our devices for work.

To have two smartphones may make sense as a way to keep our personal and work lives separate, but in reality the idea of carrying around two devices just for administrative ease feels like a hassle. And the idea of having two laptops taking up space feels similarly needless.

Businesses have come to understand the problem, with an increasing number of companies now allowing their employees to use their own devices – a concept known as BYOD or “bring your own device”.

Positives of BYOD for businesses and employees

Employees often enjoy the freedom of BYOD schemes, as it means they can just use one phone and one laptop and not have to regularly shift between Android/iOS or Windows/OSX/ChromeOS and remember the quirks of each operating system. If they just need to use a single smartphone and a single laptop, they are more likely to remember the shortcuts and work more efficiently and effectively. And they are less likely to leave the extra device on a train or a coffee table too.

Businesses also see a number of positives from BYOD schemes, including significant savings in IT costs. It should be noted that good BYOD schemes give employees the option to use their own device rather than expect it, and includes some form of technology subsidy by the company – but the savings still add up. And employees that are working more effectively and efficiently because they know the operating system and keyboard layout are always a positive for businesses.

It’s not all good news

BYOD sounds like a win-win situation where businesses save money and employees are happier and more effective, but there is one downside and that is security. It is difficult enough for a business to keep all its devices secure and up-to-date when all employees use specific iPhone or model of Lenovo Thinkpad, but when the device options are essentially infinite, keeping everything secure can be tough.

Companies with a large IT team should be able to keep on top of the situation, but for smaller companies where the benefits of BYOD are largest the businesses rely on their employees keeping their operating secure and running up-to-date antivirus and other security software.

Privacy remains a difficult question

If a company takes it upon itself to always make sure that every employees device is secure and updates, they will need to either physically review each device regularly or run some form of remote access software to allow their IT technicians access to the devices to perform these functions remotely. This may be the best way to keep the devices secure, but if it is an employees personal device then there are questions about whether giving their employer access to their personal devices is a breach of privacy.

Cloud-based software could be the answer

Whilst every business would hope that their employees run secure devices, one possible solution to the problem that does not run into privacy issues is using cloud-based software. If the software can only be access via a secure browser and through a secure VPN, then the operating system an employee is using should not matter. Moreover, using cloud-based tools can simplify the administrative burden of offering BYOD schemes, with solutions likes Ringover offering a simple way to securely route calls and track usage no matter the platform of device.