Exploring the Pros and Cons of a ‘Bring Your Own Device Policy’ (BYOD) in Small to Medium-Sized Businesses
BYOD stands for “Bring Your Own Device.”
This is an IT policy that allows employees to use their personal electronic devices for work purposes. With BYOD, employees can fully use and access company software, emails, and data, even those deemed confidential, via their own computers, smartphones, and tablets.
It’s a major move with the potential for financial savings, productivity boosts, and support for remote work. On the other hand, it raises critical cybersecurity concerns. There’s also issues of added workload for IT departments as well as incompatibility challenges.
In this article, aimed at small to medium-sized businesses in South Africa, we cover the primary advantages and disadvantages of BYOD.
The Pros of a BYOD Policy
Reduced Hardware & Software Expenditure
The primary benefit of a BYOD Policy is cost savings. When employees bring in their own devices, your company won’t have to budget for new hardware. Likewise, device repair and maintenance charges are no longer your responsibility.
Savings also extend to software. Employee devices are undoubtedly running standard software already, such as Windows 10 and Microsoft Office, which means you can save on multiple once-off and recurring license fees.
A one-time user license for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook costs around R4 300 in 2021. If you make five new hires this year, a BYOD Policy will save your business R21 500 from just basic software requirements. Add the amount saved from purchasing five new PCs, and you’ve cut IT spending by more than R80 000.
Improved Employee Productivity
The more an employee feels in control of their work environment, the more satisfied and engaged they will be.
This naturally leads to greater productivity:
A global study by Dell revealed that approximately 74% of companies with BYOD report improved employee productivity. Whilst a study by Cisco found that BYOD employees gain an average of 37 minutes of more productive time per week.
Moreover, remember that not everyone is tech-savvy. With BYOD, staff won’t have to spend their working hours (and energy) getting to grips with new technology. They’ll be accustomed to their current device which can be a huge productivity boost.
Integrated Support for Remote Work
Do you remember the scramble for enabling remote work in your business when South Africa first went into lockdown last year?
It was a frustrating experience mired with downtime, costly surprises, and a heavy hit to business continuity.
Whether it’s government-imposed restrictions, load shedding, power outages, business trips, or simply finishing up some work at home, having a BYOD system in place immediately supports remote work no matter the circumstance.
This is because a professional BYOD implementation requires a technical collaboration between VPN, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and data backup systems. This works hand-in-hand with the infrastructure needed for remote work deployment across a company.
The Cons of a BYOD Policy
More Difficulty and Complexity in IT Support
With employees on a myriad of devices, software versions, and operating systems, it becomes taxing to resolve tech support and maintenance tasks.
In short, there’s no uniformity. This makes it challenging to offer end-users effective and efficient support options, such as tutorials and SOPs because various issues will be unique or device specific.
Moreover, IT support staff will likely have knowledge gaps when troubleshooting for non-Microsoft systems. Businesses may require more training for IT staff, such as the Apple Certified Support Professional program. Clearly, all this comes with further costs, time, and management requirements.
Greater Cybersecurity Risk
It’s no surprise that BYOD will increase your business’s exposure to cybersecurity threats. Primarily, it heightens the risk for data breaches and malware infections:
Data breaches. Sensitive company data (like financial records and trade secrets) can fall into the wrong hands if an employees’ device is compromised. For example, public Wi-Fi facilities at hotels are often hotspots for man-in-the-middle hackers eavesdropping on the connection between a device and its company network. Physical factors also pose a threat for data security, with nearly 41% of network breaches being caused by a lost or stolen device.
Malware infections, such as ransomware. Almost everyone has a free mailbox from a provider like Gmail, Yahoo, Telkom, or Mweb. For personal use, these services are usually secure enough. But when employees use personal email on a device that is linked to your company network, it becomes easy for an email-based attack to spread to your business. This is due to free mailboxes lacking enterprise-level cybersecurity protection.
Additionally, most employees won’t torrent pirated video games or browse illegal websites (like those in “Free Movie Download Scams”) on a work computer. Malware from these sources is more likely to occur on personal devices, which can likewise spread to your business.
The primary remedy is investing in Mobile Device Management (MDM) software. These provide a degree of remote control over BYOD devices. In the case of theft, for example, a laptop can be wiped remotely by the company. It also allows handling software updates and keeps a record of installed applications and internet activity. However, this poses privacy concerns for employees and is also a costly investment.
Poor Performance and Software Incompatibility
Finding software that works effectively across all employee devices can be frustrating.
At one level, employee devices could lack the hardware to efficiently run business-grade software. The result is a slow, struggling computer that eats into productivity and eventually, your bottom line.
At the next level, there are different platforms, outdated operating systems, mismatched versions, and unsupported apps or protocol issues that can derail BYOD for some employees entirely. This is common with smartphones and tablets as both Apple and Android frequently disable app support for older models.
Need Some Extra Help?
Should your business implement a BYOD policy?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple, catch-all answer. The right decision will vary from company to company but input from senior IT professionals is a must before making a final decision.
At iSite Computers, we’ve been in the business since 2008. We help small to medium-sized businesses in South Africa with fully managed IT services and strategic consulting, covering everything from BYOD to backups and cybersecurity to cloud computing.