Much has been made of the recent BYOD trend where employees either prefer to work on their own devices, such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets, or are actively encouraged to do so by employers who want to keep their hardware costs down.
Employees sometimes prefer to use their own devices because they may be of a higher spec and better equipped than the ones offered by the companies for which they work. They will know their way around their own device better and if they are often working from home or travelling for business it means they don’t need to travel with two sets of devices, personal and company.
Therefore, while BYOD offers benefits for both employees and employers it also comes with several inherent risks.
Decreased Levels of Security
IT hardware provided by a company to staff will usually be protected by a robust firewall and have anti-virus installed which is updated regularly. Employees’ devices will differ in their level of protection and some may not even be protected at all, which leads to a real risk of infection by malware. Infection can then quickly spread across your company network.
Communication may also be compromised as employees will use a wide variety of handsets, many of which may be less than secure. A better option is to choose VoIP phones, these offer just as much flexibility in terms of the services they provide; are low cost for calls, and ultimately are far more secure.
Decreased Levels of Data Security
Businesses need to protect a large amount of sensitive and financial data relating to their own company; their employees; and their clients and vendors. If employees are able to use their own devices a business can be in a position where data is held in multiple places over which it has little control. These devices could be lost; stolen, or accessed by 3rd parties and it will be very difficult to know whether they are password protected or have apps installed on them that can wipe the data should they fall into the wrong hands.
Companies which implement a policy of allowing staff to use their own devices usually decide to back data up to the cloud. This holds further risk, first in terms of how secure the cloud storage itself is and second over whether the cloud is being accessed through non-secure connections. Therefore, if you want to go this route always ensure your cloud host encrypts data and make it mandatory that employees only access the cloud through a VPN connection.
If you want to continue using BYOD within your own business, you should at least take steps to mitigate your risks in terms of data protection as outlined by the Information Commissioner.
Is It Worth The Risk?
With all the risks inherent in allowing staff to use their own devices the question has to be raised whether it is worth the cost saving you will make by purchasing less IT hardware. This holds particularly true when businesses have the choice to opt for serviced offices. These provide the infrastructure you need and provide secure equipment for your employees. With support staff on hand if you experience any technical issues you may find this option both time and cost saving.
Some trends in business rise quickly and seem like a good idea when they are first proposed. This can be especially true if they are something that your employees see as a positive move. However, with BYOD, employees are recognising that by using their own devices for work they are finding it very difficult to draw a dividing line between home and work. They discover that if they can’t switch off their company laptop at the end of the day, but instead have access to calls and emails around the clock, it can be more difficult than ever to maintain that delicate work-life balance. When you add to that the inherent security risks that come with BYOD it seems this may be a trend that won’t stand the test of time.