By Paul Fick, Divisional Managing Director of Jasco Enterprise
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon has exploded in recent years as a result of mobility and the exponential growth in the popularity and the available variety of smartphones, tablets and notebook computers. By allowing employees to bring their personal mobile devices into the workplace and use these devices on the job, organisations can take advantage of lower costs in terms of providing technology equipment, as well as increased productivity and employee satisfaction. However, while BYOD has the ability to offer many benefits to organisations of all sizes, it can also pose several challenges, and can have the opposite effect to that which is desired. Unless BYOD is carefully managed, it can in fact negatively impact employee productivity, as well as compromise sensitive corporate information and increase organisational expenses. Finding the right solution to support mobile devices is paramount in addressing these challenges and enabling BYOD to have a positive impact on the organisation.
BYOD not only enables employees to make use of devices they feel comfortable using, which helps to improve their job satisfaction, it also enables employees to work remotely, on the go, which means they are always reachable by customers. This, coupled with the ability to work from anywhere, can dramatically improve productivity. However, from an IT perspective, BYOD is a contentious issue. If organisations allow every user access to the network from multiple devices, data security becomes an immensely complex task. The mobility of BYOD is its biggest draw card, but also the biggest security threat. Smartphones, tablets and even laptops are easy to lose, and are also highly prone to being stolen, which means that whoever gains possession of a device has potential access to the corporate network and all of the company’s confidential information. While most thieves are simply in it to make a ‘quick buck’ selling stolen devices, the potential for corporate espionage is a reality, and having confidential company information fall into the wrong hands is a direct contravention of the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act.
Aside from the security challenges involved, BYOD can also have a significant impact on network performance and connectivity speeds. Instead of each user having one device with access, some users now have three or more devices that they are using, which increase network traffic dramatically. Each device is used for downloads, and each device has software updates that need to run, all taking place on a network that was most likely not designed for such levels of traffic. To accommodate these traffic and storage demands can become a costly exercise for organisations adopting the BYOD trend. The degradation in network performance also affects employees’ ability to do their jobs on any of their devices. This in turn decreases employee productivity, as the network can be slowed to such an extent that performance becomes a problem. Aside from network performance degradation, network management and again security become increasingly challenging when multiple devices per user are involved.
Luckily, solving the challenge of network performance, along with security concerns, does not mean ripping out and replacing the entire network infrastructure. Mobile application management solutions can assist organisations with carefully controlling what information is shared with which employees, which applications they can access, what can be downloaded using the corporate network, and protocols in the event of a device being lost or stolen. These solutions are readily available as a service offering from many providers, and help organisations to adapt and engineer their existing networks, ensuring expected performance levels are maintained and that the network remains secure. This helps organisations to leverage their current investment while keeping up with the BYOD trend.
While many vendors and solutions providers offer mobile application management solutions, when it comes to implementing such a technology, having the right partner is critical. These solutions help organisations to manage the complexity and challenges around BYOD, and getting the implementation wrong can have dire consequences, particularly if an organisation thinks their network is protected when the reality is very different. A turnkey solution provider will ensure that mobile application management is integrated seamlessly into the network and provides the correct levels and types of access as well as managing devices for optimal productivity.
The use of smartphones and tablets is on the rise. Even schools are beginning to embrace this trend and support mobility. Making sure that your organisation is aligned with this trend and is able to face the challenges it presents will enable you to reap the advantages of BYOD and grow employee productivity along with the growth of mobile in the workplace, offering benefits today and into the future.