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Is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) the Right Policy for Your Business?

By Dana Lindahl for America's Backbone Weekly
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The modern workplace is rapidly changing, with more and more employees working everywhere except from their desks. Some work from home, while others are using the power of the internet and mobile technology to handle tasks from outside the office. It's not at all uncommon for an employee to be remaining productive at work tasks while out to dinner, or even when getting ready for bed in the evening.

While employers are usually happy that employees are being productive while off the clock, it presents another problem -- the devices they are using to do their work.

A decade ago, small business employees didn't have many options. They had a work-issued computer at their desk and that was it. If they wanted to check in on something, they would have to physically drive down to the office and log in to their computer. Now, depending on the infrastructure being used, an employee can accomplish many of the same tasks from their smartphone from anywhere in the world.

Because of this, some small businesses have implemented a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in the office.


Positives of a BYOD policy for employers

There are many positives for employers forward thinking enough to adopt a BYOD policy. You can save lots of money by not having to issue company-specific smartphones or tablets to your employees -- things they're likely to have anyway.

It can also increase employee productivity and efficiency by allowing them to complete work tasks around the clock from anywhere. Even though most employers don't want to overwork their employees at all hours of the day, having someone who can handle a problem any time is certainly useful.

Allowing employees to choose their own devices can also increase employee morale. Instead of having to use what corporate has deemed to be an appropriate device for their work, an employee can use any device they choose. This means Apple fans aren't stuck using a BlackBerry device and vice versa.

Negatives of a BYOD policy for employers

The negatives are mostly centered around security. Security breaches are always an issue for any company -- even on company-issued devices, so introducing devices over which you have even less control brings on a host of new problems.

An employee's personal laptop which they use for work could be "borrowed" by one of their children, who accidentally installs a virus, affecting the company's servers.

An employee out for drinks on a Saturday night might have their smartphone stolen, or just leave it in a bar accidentally. This potentially leaves a lot of your small business' sensitive information wide open to a thief. While a company phone could also be stolen, your employee is less likely to bring it out with them.

If an employee quits or is terminated, it's not as quick or easy as having them surrender their device. It's much messier, and sometimes impossible, to wipe all access to company data without the employee risking their own data being lost as well.

BYOD policies for employees

For many employees, a BYOD policy is a positive, especially if it gives them more freedom to do their job when and where it suits them. The biggest concern most employees have is with their own privacy.

Companies will understandably want a certain level of access to what their employees are doing while on company time or when accessing company documents. When these materials are located on a personal device, it's easy for an employee's sense of privacy to be violated, with the employer feeling justified for doing so. Some employees have even tried to sue their employer after their personal data was wiped along with the company's data.

How to decide whether a BYOD policy will work for you

Most employers will have to assess the issue on a case by case basis, and weigh out the positives and negatives. Will the increased productivity and mobility of employees outweigh the potential security problems?

The best way to go about a BYOD policy is to make it an actual policy. Don't just allow your employees to start using their own devices, but set up clear ground rules for using personal devices on company time. Employees who don't want to comply can always use company devices. Furthermore, you could consider only allowing personal devices for certain levels of employees, who have already demonstrated a particular level of trustworthiness.

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Dana Lindahl is a writer who specializes in content marketing for startups. His writing helps companies not only reach their customers but also drive sales.
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