It wasn't long ago that BYO was something you'd find on a party invitation. But with the wave of employees bringing their own smartphones and tablets into the workplace and expecting to use them for email, network access and mobile apps, BYOD -- or "bring your own device" -- now represents a promising but formidable business trend that doesn't leave IT in the mood for celebration.
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"There are a huge number of risks if people bring in their own mobile devices in an unregulated, unmanaged fashion," says Jack Gold, founder and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. In addition to data security and compliance issues, he says, there are hundreds of other complications that could surface. "If the device is lost and you wipe it, what if the employee has 300 of his kids' pictures on there? There could be lawsuits if you have a policy but people haven't signed off on it," he says. "How do you know employees won't copy sensitive data to Dropbox? And if the device breaks, that's three hours at the Apple store that the employee isn't working -- these are all issues companies don't look at."
Issues aside, BYOD is one party for which you shouldn't await an invitation; in fact, you're probably already hosting one. According to Forrester Research, 48% of 4,985 information workers surveyed already buy whatever smartphone they want and use it for work purposes. And according to Hyoun Park, principal analyst at Nucleus Research, three-quarters of companies have deployed BYOD to some extent -- and not always by choice.
"Those that make an educated decision to adopt this trend because they see the employee benefits are much better off because they're dealing upfront with the security and compliance issues," Park says. "But the majority were done out of necessity, not planning, and they tend to be much more problematic. It's like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube."
Download this Network World Digital Spotlight, "Getting out ahead of BYOD," for our in-depth look at the promise of BYOD, the different approaches, best practices and the key questions to ask when evaluating products.