As the world becomes increasingly mobile and more business leaders hire remote workers or permit telecommuting, people will more often find themselves using portable devices – laptops, tablets and smartphones – to do business. Sometimes these devices will be supplied by employers, but more often, the employees will use their own devices for both personal and professional purposes.
Although bring your own device (BYOD) seems like a good idea, it does have its drawbacks. The greatest concern is security. Special software that allows IT teams access to employees’ laptops, tablets and smartphones provides some protection by allowing IT to block certain behaviors such as downloading files from the company database to the devices. The down side is that the IT teams also have access to the employees’ personal data.
The good news for Android users is the AT&T Toggle, which allows users to keep business and personal data separate. For those who can afford it, buying a separate device that’s only used for work will keep IT teams’ prying eyes away from personal information.
Many businesses, particularly small businesses, lack the necessary budgets to provide portable devices for their employees. So, allowing employees to use their own devices saves money without stifling productivity. Whether a company issues a portable device or an employee supplies his own, the company leaders have to establish policies for protecting important company data. Security software alone is not enough. Even if IT teams have the ability to wipe data from lost or stolen devices, employees should still be trained on how to create secure passwords for their devices and documents and other practices that can reduce the chances of company information ending up in the wrong hands.
A January 2012 article on MSNBC.com raised some interesting questions. The one that stood out most was if an employee’s personal device gets damaged, who’s responsible for the cost of having it repaired or replaced? Since it is the employee’ s own device, it seems logical that the employee will be responsible for repairing or replacing it. Because some employers actually encourage their employees to use their own devices for work, the employees might expect that their employers would pay to have a damaged device repaired or replaced. Another good question was what happens when an employee quits or, worse, gets fired? An employee who is simply leaving to pursue other interests or enjoy retirement could probably be relied upon to delete or hand over any company information stored on her personal device. What about a disgruntled or dismissed employee? Can the same be said about him?
Allowing employees to bring their own devices to work may seem like a cost-effective idea that maintains productivity and employee satisfaction. But business leaders and employees alike have a few things they need to consider first. It’s important for employers to give their employees the flexibility to work from home or during a long morning commute, but it’s also important for them to ensure that their companies’ mission-critical data and clients’ personal information are secure.