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Companies' BYOD efforts coming up short, survey finds

September 05, 2013

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend has quickly established itself as a critical component of businesses' IT landscapes. Few IT trends have had as great an impact in such a short period of time, and BYOD has shown no signs of stopping. The more companies that embrace BYOD and enjoy substantial benefits as a result, the greater the pressure on holdout firms to follow suit.

The advantages offered by BYOD have been fairly well established by this point. Employees are able to conduct work more flexibly, accessing necessary documents and apps at any time and from any place. This arrangement is extremely popular with workers, meaning that firms that embrace BYOD will likely enjoy a more satisfied workforce, improving employee retention rates. And similarly, those firms that delay the implementation of BYOD may struggle to attract workers who have come to see this IT arrangement as a standard for their industries.

Yet there are legitimate reasons why some businesses are hesitant to deploy BYOD in their organizations. Among the most significant of these are security concerns. Firms are understandably worried about the possibility that a data breach will occur or compliance standards will not be upheld in a BYOD environment.

As a recent TEKsystems survey revealed, such fears are warranted, as many companies' BYOD policies are poorly designed, unevenly implemented or simply nonexistent. Yet the reality is that BYOD is here to stay. Businesses need to adapt by developing robust BYOD strategies and implementing them vigorously.

BYOD business
The TEKsystems survey included responses from more than 1,500 IT leaders and more than 2,000 IT professionals from the United States and Canada. These respondents came from a wide range of industries and all levels within their organizations, from hiring managers to CIOs.

Among the study's most significant findings was that BYOD is effectively unavoidable at this point. More than four-fifths of IT workers indicated they now use their mobile phones for work-related purposes on a typical business day, while 72 percent use laptops and 54 percent leverage tablets. Considering these numbers, it is really no longer practical for businesses to simply forbid BYOD within their organizations, as too many IT workers now expect to be able to use their personal devices in these ways.

However, many businesses have yet to adapt to these circumstances, as the survey demonstrated. Approximately two-thirds of respondents indicated their organizations' BYOD policies fell into one of three camps: nothing had been communicated, no official policies were in place or BYOD was not allowed at all.

Simply put, these are the three worst BYOD options for businesses of all kinds, and yet they are the most common approaches to the IT issue. Without communication, it does not matter what strategy or policies the company's IT decision-makers select, as employees will pursue their own initiatives without any guidance or assistance. A lack of communication is essentially the same as having no policy in place whatsoever, and both of these options open businesses to serious data security threats. In order for BYOD to be implemented securely, it is critical for businesses to have robust IT support in place. The IT department needs to have the authority and means of overseeing the BYOD environment to institute safeguards and data protection measures. With a lack of policy or communication, this becomes impossible.

No way to say no
Considering the risks involved, it's not surprising that many businesses have yet to embrace BYOD. The TEKsystems survey found that nearly three-quarter of participants believe sensitive corporate data may be at risk when BYOD is allowed.

However, completely forbidding BYOD is untenable. As the survey confirmed, BYOD's most valuable proposition is increased employee satisfaction, as this was chosen by more than half of both the IT professionals and IT leaders surveyed. Ignoring BYOD not only means that businesses miss out on this benefit, but may breed resentment among workers.

Even worse, many employees will disregard the company's stated policy and utilize BYOD at their own discretion. And because the firm has not instituted official policies, there will be no data security measures in place to guarantee that corporate data accessed via BYOD remains protected.

Best practices
Considering all of these issues, it is clear that the best course of action for businesses is to develop well-considered, thorough BYOD policies, and then to implement these strategies with alacrity and commitment. Businesses should spend the time to determine who should be able to access what corporate data via their personal devices, and then make these decisions known to all relevant personnel. To ensure that employees deploy BYOD in a responsible, compliant manner, IT training is critical, and should be made mandatory to all affected workers. 

By following these best practices, BYOD can prove a major asset for businesses, without increased security concerns.

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