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This Party is BYOD, Part One

The word you’re looking for is “ubiquity.” It describes the near-total assimilation of technology into every aspect of our lives. The words “cell phone” are falling by the wayside as the words “smart phone” take their place, and soon enough the word “phone” might be dropped altogether as a relic of a time when people used them primarily (and ever so quaintly) for actually talking to each other. These relatively recent smart devices are upending the traditional separations between work and home, with uncertain results. For some employers, “bring your own device” (“BYOD”) is considered a boon, allowing employees to stay connected to the workplace at all times through the comfort and convenience of their personal devices. For others, BYOD could be a nightmare, with IT advisory company Gartner calling it, cheekily, “a disruptive phenomenon where employees bring non-company IT into the organization and demand to be connected to everything – without proper accountability or oversight.”[1] Chances are good that the true answer might be a little bit of both as lines continue to blur across the wirelessly-connected workforce. Gartner estimates that as many as 90% of workplaces will have some aspect of BYOD in place by 2017. We’ll explore the reasoning behind BYOD and the pitfalls that can accompany it before delving into what makes for a strong BYOD policy.

To begin, it’s important to understand the reasons for allowing BYOD at all. The most obvious reason is the direct benefit of a reduction in cost of investment in the devices themselves. An employee who accesses company email Technology News On Apple Ipad Airor takes business calls on her or his own device saves the employer the cost of purchasing a device for the employee for the same purpose. The other upside to this is that an employee may be far more likely to access a personal device and have it on their person at all times than a company device for purely company purposes. If the employer doesn’t reimburse the employee for business conducted on personal devices with added stipends for data or voice plans, those are more ongoing costs savings for the employer. Another reason for allowing BYOD is a little less cheery – you can’t really stop it. These devices are on employees at all times, with the employees reading company emails, taking calls, accessing networks – it’s better to plan for the eventuality rather than lament the failure of a zero-tolerance policy.

There are also multiple pitfalls from a purely employee conduct standpoint to avoid with BYOD in the mix. The biggest concern is security – what happens when an employee misuses or loses a device that has sensitive proprietary information? Even if the employee used the device for email alone, chances are good that valuable information is contained within. Malware on an employee’s device could do harm to a company by logging an employee’s use of the device that then sends that information back to cyber criminals. Non-secure cloud storage could be used to store important employer documents. The employee could use the device on an open network, exposing the device and all the information stored in it. Finally, the employee could just flat-out lose the device – and all the sensitive information inside, as well as access to the company’s resources.

Be sure to view the next post on Wednesday for more pitfalls of BYOD, as well as some best practices for BYOD policies.

[1] Gartner. http://www.gartner.com/technology/topics/byod.jsp (last accessed on January 20, 2015)

This article is intended as a summary of state and federal law and does not constitute legal advice.

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