bring your own device security privacy

This post was written by Pankaj “PJ” Gupta, the CEO and founder of Amtel.

In 2012, any remaining arguments against BYOD were seemingly put to rest, and the practice of “bring your own device” to work gained broad acceptance.

Most companies approving a BYOD policy consider it a win-win situation — at least at first. Employees are free to use their favorite devices, and can seamlessly integrate their professional and personal digital worlds. Companies save some money and enjoy a productivity boost since employees tend to stay more connected to their jobs when they’re using their own devices.

Everyone’s happy, right?

It would be naïve to think that any radical change in the workplace could be that easy. And seeing as the flood of smart devices represents a truly disruptive technology change, it’s clear that we still have some work to do on the BYOD front.

Challenges conquered and challenges to come

A closer look at BYOD trends in 2012 shows that companies finally started to enjoy the benefits of BYOD only because their IT departments have overcome some of BYOD’s biggest initial challenges, which include:

  • Finding the budget for a mobile device management (MDM) solution that can manage employee-owned as well as company-owned devices
  • Giving employees secure access to email from their smart devices
  • Enhancing security and, ensuring that the proliferation of mobile devices will not put sensitive, valuable company data assets at risk

In 2013, with BYOD programs accelerating and gaining traction, management and IT teams are now asking themselves, “How do we discourage employees from doing inappropriate things with their devices?”

The questions over inappropriate smart device behaviors sound a lot like the early fears about Internet access. Years ago, the big concerns on companies’ minds were things like online game sites, YouTube, and Facebook, which companies thought encouraged employees to waste time and, as a result, impact their bottom lines.

These questions are potentially more pressing with smartphones, which now give us millions of apps to play around with. The distraction level has never been higher.

And then there’s the data question. In addition to all of the above, IT departments must now consider how movie downloads and music streaming could slow down corporate networks, gateways, servers, and critical applications on those servers. And what about smart devices using the company’s WiFi network to share intellectual property outside of the company?

New rules and deterrents

With an obligation to protect company resources, data, and intellectual property, IT departments must somehow monitor employee “smart behaviors” and identify activity that puts their companies at risk.

Fortunately, best-in-class mobile device management (MDM) solutions allow IT departments to automate and customize monitoring based on the business environment and culture. A single solution can cover security, applications monitoring, and basic device management in an effort to provide IT departments with a central view of devices and their activities.

These solutions eliminate the need for IT to keep up with device trends, with ongoing support for the popular hardware devices, mobile operating systems, and applications.

Businesses can tackle BYOD holistically to make it much safer and productive to the enterprise. As a result, the scope of mobile-related IT best practices is evolving well beyond basic access control and data security.

For example, features like geo-fencing use GPS location boundaries to restrict behaviors that lower productivity, put the company at risk, or drive up telecom costs. While inside company buildings, games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope can be disabled. Use of in-phone cameras can be restricted to safeguard trade secrets. Access to apps that require large amounts of network bandwidth can be limited to sites with WiFi, where their use does not drive up data costs.

Most employees have been quick to learn basic cell phone etiquette. Phones are set to vibrate; it’s almost universally considered rude to answer a call in a meeting. Thanks to newer MDM technologies, employees will also be quick to learn that inappropriate behaviors will be noticed. The company-driven policies will rapidly result in a new level of smart device etiquette in the office.

In 2013, there’s nor reason why BYOD can’t be a win-win-win situation—for employees, management,and IT.

Smartphone: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock