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The Green Sheet Online Edition

January 27, 2014 • Issue 14:01:02

The Mobile Buzz
Watch your BYOD

Mobile devices are not just leading the evolution of payment processing; they are spurring changes in the workplace as well. An increasing number of today's employees not only want, but expect, to use smartphones, laptops and tablets at work, fostering the bring your own device (BYOD) movement. But the advantages of BYOD in productivity and worker retention are tempered by implementation challenges, namely legal, security and cost issues.

According to the Moka5 white paper, Nuts and Bolts: Planning and Implementing an Effective BYOD Program, BYOD programs are proliferating widely in corporate America – with great benefits for employees and employers. However, whether the programs have the proper technology parameters and safeguards is at issue.

Moka5, which specializes in BYOD implementations, cited Cisco Systems Inc. research that quantified the annual value of BYOD programs for corporations: $300 for each "knowledge worker" and up to $1,300 for every executive. "Multiply these figures by the number of employees in your enterprise, and you'll see that BYOD is a very good deal … but only if implemented correctly," Moka5 said.

Legal, security and cost factors

Legal, security and financial considerations dominate Moka5's discussion, making the case for BYOD complex. Enterprises can put themselves in legal jeopardy if they don't define the scope of BYOD programs. Some questions employers need to ask include:

  • What happens if an employee's mobile device is subpoenaed for a court case?
  • When can an employer access an employee's email and other data that had been generated by a mobile device?
  • How does an employer monitor the use of mobile devices?

Security is another sticking point. "Implementing a BYOD program means placing both business and personal data on the same physical device," Moka5 said, which makes securing devices and corporate data problematic. The solution, according to the researchers, is to separate the two.

Moka5 said enterprises can virtualize a network, which puts a protective container around sensitive data and only allows employees limited access to the network via the virtual filter. Alternatively, security software can be installed on physical devices to secure corporate resources. Moka5 favors the virtualization approach. "The devices themselves must be treated as untrusted," Moka5 said. "So it makes sense for IT [information technology] to focus on securing the data, as opposed to the devices themselves."

Financial considerations must also be weighed. Companies can let employees pay for devices outright, limit the purchase of said devices to certain retailers that have special arrangements with the business, or the company can purchase the devices itself. Different taxation burdens arise depending on which path an enterprise chooses.

Another cost metric involves software licensing. "When using virtual desktops, the enterprise may need to pay for two software licenses (one for the physical desktop and one for the virtual machine)," Moka5 said. "Licensing costs are an important component of calculating multiyear ROI projections."

BYOD or bust

Moka5 conducted a survey of 335 IT professionals in June 2012 that concluded BYOD is not a growing trend, but an already prevalent practice. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said their companies already had some form of BYOD policy in place. Employees have grown accustomed to being always connected and always reachable, which fuels the assumption that they should be able to work anywhere and anytime, and have the flexibility to conduct personal business via those devices at the same time.

In its survey, Moka5 also found that of the 22 percent of respondents who said their companies do not have BYOD policies, half ignore that fact and use their own devices anyway, Moka5 said. The popularity of BYOD thus means businesses must implement sound programs.

Moka5 believes the best solutions separate corporate data and processes from employees' personal counterparts, ensuring that data – such as viruses – from unsecured networks never touch the enterprise work environment. However, a BYOD program that fails to do this can have negative consequences. "A poorly implemented BYOD program can elevate support challenges to nightmare levels," Moka5 said.

Nevertheless, Moka5 stated that the benefits of BYOD outweigh the challenges, "letting the corporation reap the benefits of enhanced productivity; happier employees; and lower administration, hardware and support costs." end of article

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