Embracing the Age of Mobility & the BYOD Workplace

15In today’s always-connected world, the time-honored separation of work and personal time is quickly disappearing. Mobile devices such as laptops, netbooks, tablets, and smartphones have fundamentally changed how all of us live and work.

With work no longer confined to a physical office space, or limited to traditional business hours, we’ve created an increasingly mobile and dispersed workforce capable of working anywhere at any time. 3 out of 5 workers today no longer believe an office presence is necessary for a productive day’s work. By 2015, the IDC estimates the U.S. will have over 200 million people working remotely.

By now, it’s obvious that BYOD (Bring- Your-Own-Device) isn’t just another buzz-worthy acronym or a workplace trend that will eventually fade; it’s part of the complete restructuring of the conventional way we’ve worked up to this point. There is simply no going back to the way we were. With or without company approval, employees prefer working from devices they own and are most comfortable with, meaning it’s out with yesterday’s loud, clunky and slow in-office desktop PCs and in with today’s feature-rich, on-the-go, employee-owned mobile devices.

Although many small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) have fully embraced BYOD for its countless benefits, this proliferation of employee-owned devices accessing company databases, files, and email servers is unprecedented. It is also risky because it increases vulnerability to security breaches and data loss.

Which raises the question: are workplaces today responsibly ushering in BYOD with safety, security, and long-term adaptability in mind?

THE MAINSTREAMING OF BYOD

It’s hard to believe that just a decade ago work mobility was practically nonexistent. We worked from cubicle farms with workstations and desktop PCs straight out of the movie Office Space. The office was our only access to the company network. Select employees might be provided with company-issued laptops with pre-loaded software useful for work. Perhaps they’d be trusted with FTP (File Transfer Protocol) privileges to access and transfer files to the server. Cell phones were actually just phones.

Even when BlackBerrys were introduced to the business world, allowing people to use a mobile handheld device to access their work email and manage their schedule for the very first time, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server made it easy for IT departments to configure and manage the device. BlackBerrys eventually gave way to iPhones and Androids. Laptops eventually gave way to iPads and tablets that combined laptop usability with smartphone portability. Meanwhile, the number of public Wi- Fi hotspots grew, making employees eager to access their company network and work files from just about anywhere through their mobile device.

Today, BYOD has become the “new normal”. A recent poll of 1,021 small business owners in the United States found that 68% allowed employees to use personal devices for work. 79% of CIOs at businesses who aren’t encouraging BYOD believe employees access their network with unauthorized personal devices every day.

Initial resistance to the BYOD movement has proven to be futile. Gartner, a technology research firm, predicts that 90% of businesses and organizations will support the use of personal devices for work purposes by the end of 2014.

And it certainly seems that more business owners today are seeing the upside of BYOD, which include…

Increased Production19b

On average, it has been approximated that businesses gain 9 additional hours of productivity per week when employees use personal devices.

Improved Service

The benefits of this increased production and greater flexibility naturally extend to clients and customers since mobility allows workers to resolve escalated issues or almost instantly reply to inquiries outside of normal work hours. It is common these days to receive an email response after 5pm with a “Sent from my iPhone” tagline at the bottom.

Reduced Costs

Transferring IT hardware and equipment expenses to employees can save SMBs significant money. A study conducted by Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions projected that U.S. companies utilizing BYOD can save up to $3,150 per employee each year. Additionally, since consumers are drawn to the freshest technology, and the latest upgrade to their device of choice, businesses no longer have to budget to continually upgrade to keep up with technological advances.

In 2013, telecommunications and information technology service provider Cbeyond, Inc. conducted a blind survey of 711 C-level executives of firms with fewer than 250 employees. Their findings revealed that not only is BYOD more widely accepted today, but mobile devices have also become critical to day-to-day operations and essential to meeting business objectives. Many acknowledged that it would be a challenge to do business today otherwise. A fair share of executives felt their business couldn’t survive without mobile device usage.20

One troubling aspect of the aforementioned report is 32% of the surveyed SMBs aren’t sure if their data is adequately protected. While they acknowledge that BYOD puts their organization at risk, just 22% of SMBs currently have a comprehensive BYOD policy in place to address mobile device usage and define data privileges extended to personal devices.

Here are a few reasons this sets a dangerous precedent.

  • Nearly a third of employees use more than one mobile device during a typical workday. It’s critical that organizations, especially small businesses, know whatdevices are accessing their network and whom they belong to.
  • With the existence of public Wi-Fi hotspots at coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, convention centers, trains, and airports, inadequately secured mobile devices are constantly exposed to hackers monitoring traffic on open networks. According to data compiled by the Ponemon Institute, 59% of organizations have experienced a rise in malware infections linked to insecure mobile devices.
  • BYOD makes SMBs increasingly susceptible to costly data breaches with 38% of these breaches occurring as the result of lost or stolen mobile devices. Verizon Business has estimated that 174 million records have been stolen in 855 data breaches linked to smartphones and tablets.
  • There are more than 500,000 apps in the Apple App Store. The Android Marketplace has over 200,000 apps. The security controls in place to evaluate the safety of these applications are suspect and some apps having phishing screens, hidden spyware, and malware. This means the apps or clients being used to access enterprise content could put your data at risk.

The adoption of BYOD can be beneficial to small businesses but it shouldn’tcompromise company or customer data. Developing a comprehensive BYOD policy minimizes risk while still granting full (and secure) access to the files and applications your employees need, regardless of where they are.

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