The use of BYOD (bring your own device) is rapidly expanding. According to a survey by mobility services and Wi-Fi company iPass, 90% of organisations will have to support BYOD by 2014. Indeed, analyst house Forrester predicts that two years later 350 million workers will use smartphones, 200 million of whom will take their own devices to the workplace.
In a white paper on BYOD, Dell states: "To implement a successful BYOD programme, CIOs need to first determine the end objective of implementing the programme and then build it up, so it fits into their larger business and IT strategy."
This strategy will require a multifaceted approach to BYOD optimisation with several features:
- Clearly defined security policies - As BYOD will include business and personal information, it is vital that staff adhere to a clearly defined security policy. This will include the use of encryption, virtualisation, virtual private networks and firewalls to protect sensitive data.
- Application consistency - BYOD brings together apps and other installed software into one device. Which applications can and cannot be used should be clearly defined.
- Network support - The use of virtualisation and remote access is commonplace with BYOD deployments. Businesses need to ensure their networks can efficiently manage the influx of new devices that BYOD will present.
- Hardware replacement strategy - To ensure that BYOD is optimised, it is important to properly manage device replacement. Smartphones and tablet PCs change yearly, so it is vital that a clear upgrade policy is developed.
- Assess the impact on business culture - Preventing BYOD from taking root in a business has been shown to be counterproductive and highly damaging for morale. Embracing BYOD and optimising its use deliver real world advantages.
Benefits and risks
BYOD will evolve hand-in-glove with the technology around it, and there will be new benefits and risks with every evolution and iteration. This makes it essential to adopt a BYOD model and infrastructure components that support the existing desktop now rather than be left behind.
A recent poll of IT executives conducted by Dell concluded: "An estimated three quarters of those polled stated that BYOD can only deliver massive benefits if the specific needs and rights of each user are understood; while only an estimated 17% of organisations encourage BYOD and actively manage any device employees wish to use – showing they really understand the need to empower employees."
Optimising BYOD is about more than simply ensuring all devices are supported on a network and that robust security protocols are in place. A fully optimised BYOD environment also means a detailed user policy and an understanding of the dangers that it can bring.
Ultimately, empowering a workforce with BYOD means balancing network infrastructure, mobile applications security, regulatory compliance where this applies, and using training and education. These will help to get the most of a burgeoning trend that looks set to transform how businesses use information technology.