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The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has been a conversation at medium sized businesses for seven years. If you haven't heard the expression "BYOD," it refers to workplace policies that encourage employees to use their own Smartphones and Tablets for work. If you're a small business leader who has or is interested in running a BYOD model, staying on top of the phenomenon is essential for ensuring that the inclusion of employee-owned devices in the workplace is successful. Here are some important points to consider.
You need a well-defined, written BYOD policy. A successful BYOD adoption begins with a clear understanding of the expectations of all parties involved. Important details, such as a list of acceptable devices, your billing policy, security protocols and the use of third-party software to manage devices should be well established so that there are no surprises down the road. For instance, an upfront outline of acceptable brands and models of devices could help avoid a preventable dispute or wasted time between employer and employee.
Allowing a wide range of accepted devices is a good idea. Having choice will make your staff happy. Remember, your staff are responsible for their hardware and software maintenance, and while managing a greater number of brands and operating systems has proven challenging in the past, there are an increasing number of software solutions on the market that make device management easier (see MDM software, below).
Mobile Device Management (MDM) software solutions are essential for managing a wide array of Smartphones and Tablets. Today's software products offer an increasing range of device and operating system support and allow you to enforce security protocols and manage your business software. For example, MaaS360, from IBM gives you the power to control administrative privileges when it comes to corporate data access points, allows for the enforcement of strong password policies and can ensure the use of SSL connections. It has features that wipe data from lost or stolen devices, and from those devices belonging to ex-employees. It also provides a platform for your business's software. It ranges in price from $3 to $9.75 per device per month, depending on the features you opt for.
BYOD isn't an opportunity to simply reduce costs. It's easy to get excited when you consider that your business will be free from hardware costs in a BYOD model. But there are other costs to consider, such as plan reimbursement (should you decide to provide it), the price of MDM software and the labor costs associated with managing that software. Using the MaaS360 example, you're looking at an average of about $8 per device in software expenses. A Tech Pro Research Survey revealed that $71.40 is the average plan reimbursement figure in American businesses, and labour costs can vary, depending on how many IT people you need to hire to manage your devices.
BYOD might not be right for you. Depending on your specific industry, the security risks and/or the possibility of violating privacy laws might be too great. For instance, in the healthcare sector, where data management must comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPPA) regulations, a reasonable fear of lawsuits rising from potential data breaches might give you grounds to rethink BYOD policies. The same may hold true if you're working in a security business or otherwise managing high-risk data. Government agencies who deal with classified information, for instance, might want to provide their own devices to employees which have more customized security software and features.
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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.