For small businesses in particular the propensity of their employees to use their own mobile data devices at work has become an imperative that all business owners need to address.

"BYOD strategies are the most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in business in decades," said David Willis, Vice President and analyst at Gartner. "The benefits of BYOD include creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction, and reducing or avoiding costs."

For the small business community BYOD offers a number of unique advantages including:

  • Low overhead cost, as employees supply their own devices.
  • No need to select a vendor and management plan for each device.
  • Employees are more productive as they are using familiar devices.
  • Reduces IT support, as employees tend to reach out to their device and data plan vendors for help and support.
  • Businesses can attract high calibre employees as BYOD shows a level of technical maturity that is extremely attractive.
  • Familiarity with their own devices eliminates the learning curve and its inherent costs.
  • Morale is boosted as employees feel more in control of their working schedules as they are using their own devices.

In their whitepaper on how to embrace BYOD, Dell advises: "To end users "bring your own device" appeals as an unprecedented opportunity for flexibility and productivity. To IT it can seem like a security and compliance nightmare. The reality is that BYOD – which includes laptops, tablets and smartphones – offers both benefits and risks."

Business advantage

Managing a burgeoning BYOD environment to reap the benefits that this can deliver should be the focus for all small business owners. Dell offers this strategy advice to ensure that BYOD is leverage to its maximum:

  • Start by mapping user tasks to roles that are defined by what your employees do, such as sales rep, call centre operator, software developer. Then determine what level of access each role needs? Which applications you need to support each role?
  • Inventory your applications. Determine if your client environment meets compliance regulations.
  • Create a mobile application stack for each role.
  • Once you know what your application stack looks like, secure your data with a multi-layered approach that covers the device, network and data centre.
  • Keep business and employee data separate from the beginning.
  • Create policies that enable you to tell who is on the network and what they are trying to do.
  • Centralize image management to accelerate provisioning and increase uptime.
  • Ensure your employees have the bandwidth and network IT they need to support anytime, anyplace access.
  • Consider a cloud-based data management system to ensure your users have access to their data and documents wherever and whenever they need it.
  • Provide break/fix support to your mobile employees wherever they go.

Remote working is now an integral component of all modern businesses. As employees can be geographically dispersed over global distances, BYOD is one effective way to enhance their productivity with little financial overhead.

One issue that smaller enterprises struggle with is the management of what can be a plethora of BYOD platforms being used across their enterprises. One established management platform is Dell KACE that offers easy-to-use, cost effective appliance-based solution to manage a full range of devices on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android platforms.

User management

Developing remote working within your organization has clear benefits. However, business owners can't have a completely hands-off attitude to BYOD. Security and data integrity issues must be addressed to ensure that BYOD can be used by all, but in a secure and managed environment.

IDC predict that by 2015, 1.3 billion of the working population will be working via mobile devices – many of which will be their own personal machines. There is little doubt that BYOD will become an established component of all businesses – indeed if it hasn't already. Smaller enterprises because of their agility are the best placed to leverage this change in working practices and how the latest mobile devices encapsulated in the smartphone and tablet can be a huge efficiency boost right across an enterprise.

However, care should be taken to ensure that security and data integrity policies are in place to safeguard that these devices are used within clearly understood business practices. As Dell concludes: "With the right plan and policies, you can create a positive user experience, boost both employee and IT productivity and protect your intellectual capital."