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The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement has really taken off in recent years and with the growing trend has come considerable debate on whether or not it's actually saving businesses money. On one hand, if employees are bringing their own phones and tablets to work, that means the company doesn't have to shell out hundreds of dollars per employee on gadgets. Further, since employees are responsible for their own devices, IT staff aren't responsible for maintaining them. On the other hand, there are a number of other costs associated with BYOD. For instance, while IT support teams may not have to maintain individual devices, they instead face the difficult task of creating a network that can harmoniously support multiple devices and operating systems. The reality is that there are so many complex variables at play that it's difficult to establish an overall cost benefit analysis for BYOD. Let's take a deeper look at some of the savings and costs that come with adopting this trend.
As noted earlier, companies with BYOD policies save money off the top on hardware. With smart phones ranging from about $600-$900, that's hefty per-person savings. It's an even greater savings if you throw tablets into the equation. With an average of about $300-$700 per tablet, you're roughly looking at a total savings of $900-$1600 per employee on hardware.
Telecom bills are another factor. Money can be saved here, but it depends on the company's reimbursement policy. Some firms let their employees carry the entire cost of their cellular and data plans, which equates to massive savings. However, as this is an ethically questionable practice, most companies offer reimbursement programs. Whether savings or costs are realized here depends on how much a company reimburses. If reimbursements are small, the company will save money versus what they'd pay if they were providing devices and paying for plans. However, if reimbursements are high and you factor in the cost of processing an expense report (est. $18) you're looking at a loss.
IT support savings are more difficult to calculate. In a BYOD environment, if an employee has a malfunctioning device, they deal with it themselves through their own warranties or by paying out of pocket for repairs. This obviously saves the company money, but?
IT services must now manage a network that can handle different devices and different operating systems. It isn't just the Android and iOS divide we're talking about. There are different versions of Android to take into account. Not only are there newer and older versions to deal with, but variations across products. Phones from Google, Samsung, and LG all run different versions of Android. It's a lot of work to keep a network running smoothly with all these variables. Figuring out specific costs on this is impossible right now as the number of compatibility issues that arise varies so much between any given network.
Another cost associated with BYOD is security. Because vital corporate data can be accessed from phones and tablets, companies have to pay for software suites which employees then install on their devices. The popular BES suite from Blackberry forces users to comply with login procedures and strong password policies, and can cost anywhere from $3 to $25 per month depending on the package.
Does it really matter?
A review of the literature on BYOD cost/savings yields mixed results. Some pundits hail BYOD as a cost-saving boon for businesses, while others lament about the "hidden" costs that come with multi-OS platform support, security suites and the paperwork needed for reimbursement reports. But does any of this really matter? The BYOD trend is raging and there's no reason to believe that's going to change. Americans are in love with their devices and they want to use them at work. Employers who don't allow BYOD are increasingly being perceived as tyrannical. The truth is, it's too late to stem the tide. The best thing companies can do is embrace the BYOD movement and do their own research on savings and cost, adopting policies that will serve their specific corporate needs.
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David Ryan has many years of experience as a freelance writer and is active covering science and technology stories in the United States. He also enjoys writing short stories and traveling.