Pros and Cons of BYOD at Work

The Ups and Downs of Bringing Your Own Device at the Workplace

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BYOD at work is famous because it brings freedom to employees and to employers. It means that workers can bring their own computers, tablet PCs, smartphones and other productivity and communication devices in their places of work for professional activities. While it is much appreciated by most, it comes with many drawbacks and has to be dealt with particular caution. In this article, we look at how people in businesses are welcoming the idea, its pros, and its cons.

The Popularity of BOYD

BOYD has not been just welcome but has imposed itself as a logically and somewhat natural habit. It took its place before it could be planned.

A recent study (by Harris Poll of US adults) revealed that more than 4 persons over 5 use a personal electronic device for tasks related to work. The study also showed that nearly a third of those who bring their laptops to use at work connect to the company’s network via Wi-Fi. This opens the possibility of intrusion from outside.

Also, nearly a half of all those having a personal electronic device they use for work has allowed someone else to use that device. The auto-lock feature, which is important for a corporate environment is not utilized by more than a third of those using their personal computers at work, and around that same percentage say that their organization’s data files are not encrypted. Two-thirds of BYOD users admit not being part of a company BYOD policy, and a quarter of all BYOD users have been a victim of malware and hacking.

BOYD Pros

BYOD can be a boon for both employers and employees. Here is how it can help.

Employers save on the money they would have to invest on equipping their staff. Their savings include those made on the purchase of devices for the workers, on the maintenance of these devices, on data plans (for voice and data services) and other things.

BOYD makes (most) workers are happier and more satisfied. They are using what they like – and what they have invested their hard-earned money on. Not having to cope with the budget-oriented and often dull devices offered by the company is a relief.

BYOD Cons

On the downside, BOYD can get the company and staff into trouble, sometimes big trouble.

The devices brought by workers are likely to face incompatibility issues. The reasons for this are numerous: version mismatch, conflicting platforms, wrong configurations, inadequate access rights, incompatible hardware, devices that do not support a protocol used (e.g. SIP for voice), devices that can’t run a required software (e.g. Skype for Blackberry) etc.

Privacy is made more vulnerable with BOYD, both for the company and the worker. For the worker, the company logistics may have rules enforced that require his device and file system to be open and workable remotely by the system. Personal and private data may then be either disclosed or tampered with.

Privacy of the company’s high-valued data is also at threat. Workers will have these data on their machines and once they leave the corporate environment, they stand as potential leaks for the company’s data.

When I was working as a programmer, my ex-employer would never allow me to take codes home to continue the work, for fear of voluntary or involuntary disclosure. He always said, “What if someone steals your device?” I guess all employers may be harboring that question somewhere in their heads when it is not articulated in words. Furthermore, the trust between the boss and his workers may suffer a bit for the latter carries some of his wealth in his bag or pocket and may illegally work bad intentions on it.

One problem may hide another. In case the integrity and safety of a worker’s device are compromised, the company may impose systems to remotely erase data from that device, e.g. through ActiveSync policies.

Also, judicial authorities may warrant the seizure of the hardware. As a worker, think of the perspective of losing the use of your precious device because you happen to have a couple of work-related files on it.

Many workers are reluctant to bring their devices at work because they feel the employer will exploit them through it. Many claim a refund for wear and tear and would in a way rather ‘rent’ the device to the boss by using it on his premises for his work. This causes the company to lose the advantage of BOYD to workers’ pessimism.

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