BYOD What?

Posted on 17 September 2013

Our recent articles about social media ownership (see Social media ownership – who do your contacts really belong to? ) and protection of your IP (see IP Protection) have struck a chord with many of our readers. We have received lots of feedback and comments agreeing that these issues are important and challenging matters for businesses to consider in the ever expanding ‘digital age’. As our earlier articles have discussed, technology is great for business when harnessed properly but very dangerous when it is not.

Given the interest in the general topic of IT related issues, this week we thought we’d look at a related topic but come at it from a slightly different angle. How is it that businesses (or more properly the people within businesses) are accessing/using technology? Its all in the DEVICE!

Advances in technology have now enabled most of us to access a plethora of information, goods and services across a range of platforms any time of the day or night and from just about anywhere in the world all for a relatively moderate cost. Well moderate for the individual consumer, still quite expensive when rolled out across an entire business. This has seen the advent of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) phenomenon. Loosely speaking this is a situation where a business allows its personnel to use their own devices to fulfil their role rather than using devices supplied by the business. This can either be because what the business supplies is inferior (read cheaper) to that which the staff member has or because the staff member has a preference in using a device they are familiar and comfortable with (or any number of other reasons).

Along with the many benefits that BYOD can bring a business there of course needs to be a certain level of care and planning put in place before allowing wholesale access to your business through someone’s private device. Security is obviously a serious concern for an organisation where laptops, tablets or hand held devices which are loaded with company software/data (but owned by members of staff) are travelling with staff wherever they go. The opportunity for theft or misadventure of the devices (and their contents) needs careful consideration. As does the issues of the departing employee. Traditionally, with a company owned device the employer remains in control (largely) of the information stored upon it but when an employee’s personal device goes with them when they leave, how is company property retained and security maintained?

The short answer is that there is no one sized fits all solution. However our recommendations to help protect you business as far as possible include:

  1. Educate yourself as to the risks that you may expose your business to by allowing a BYOD approach;
  2. Implement appropriate IT safeguards (eg server controlled passwords, ability to format/wipe the device remotely);
  3. Educate & train your staff as to the pitfalls and risks of BYOD and how to safeguard their devices;
  4. Implement an appropriately worded BYOD Policy and use sensible terms in your employment contracts as to everyone’s responsibilities and obligations as to BYOD issues.