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Can employee-owned devices save companies money?

The costs of a 'bring your own device' (BYOD) enterprise deployment can be tricky to figure

By , Network World
January 19, 2012 01:32 PM ET

Network World - The "bring your own device" (BYOD) phenomenon is sweeping through the enterprise, and businesses such as Chicago-based design firm Holly Hunt have embraced it with gusto, offering stipends to employees to use their own mobile devices for work.

"We said, let's make this an employee benefit. If you are in a role where we issued you a corporate BlackBerry, you can if you want turn that in and carry your own device -- and you'll receive a stipend," says Neil Goodrich, director of business analytics and technology at Holly Hunt, which has upscale furniture showrooms across the country as well as manufacturing and warehouse locations.

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The company does require employees choosing the BYOD option to sign an agreement "that says we are allowed to reach into the device," says Goodrich, doing this with mobile management software from BoxTone that's loaded up on employee-owned BYOD smartphones and tablets. Goodrich also says he likes BoxTone because it has an integrated dashboard that can combine information related to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and the BYOD employee devices.

Several Holly Hunt employees have given up their BlackBerries in favor of personal devices, and Goodrich says the stipend, which ranges between $60 to $75 each month for employees, has so far ended up looking like a 5% reduction in cellular costs for the company.

The firm is hardly alone in embracing BYOD; a survey of 688 information and security managers done by Ponemon Institute recently found 17% of the respondents said more than 75% of the organization's employees use their personal devices in the workplace. Another 20% said more than half did. A quarter of the respondent use some kind of mobile-device management (MDM) today.

Holly Hunt requires the MDM software it selected to be installed on the employee-owned devices, and some analysts strongly support that be done especially before hooking up BYOD smartphones and tablets to corporate email, if not sooner.

Aberdeen Group analyst Andrew Borg says basic MDM controls, include device lock and wipe and adding encryption, are also going to be a requirement for some organizations. And Borg discourages a BYOD approach that would let employees select just any smartphone or tablet.

"Never say 'all,' never say 'anything goes,'" he warns. Drawing up a list of specific models of Android and Apple smartphones and tablets allowed for BYOD will go a long way in holding down costs in time and maintenance, says Borg, since IT departments will be supporting MDM software and setting security and management policies.

In its research, Aberdeen has also found that the costs related to BYOD devices, stipends and telecom are more complex than what they may seem to be at first glance.

Aberdeen found that the cost to a company from the carrier, such as AT&T, Sprint or Verizon, averages $70 per user per month for BYOD launches, while more traditional corporate enterprise deployments average $80 per user per month in direct costs, says Aberdeen analyst Hyoun Park. "At first glance, this looks like a clear win for the BYOD approach," says Park. "However, this ignores two key points."

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