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Network World - Few technology trends have inspired as many misgivings -- and as much misinformation - as BYOD, or "bring your own device." Is the idea of allowing employees to purchase and use their own laptops and mobile devices a security nightmare? A productivity boon? A drain on the service desk? And perhaps the biggest question of all, a cost-savings nirvana?
With conflicting information - and few well-managed implementations of BYOD from which to learn - confusion abounds as to whether BYOD saves money or costs more. In a survey by Xigo, a provider of cloud-based expense management, respondents named cost savings as a top goal for BYOD programs. However, most (67%) said their mobile expenditures had not changed after allowing some form of BYOD, while nearly one-quarter saw them rise. Meanwhile, in a survey by Lieberman Software, most respondents (67%) said BYOD would increase IT and security costs.
"People might think, 'I don't have to buy laptops or tablets anymore, so this is going to save me money,'" says Paul DeBeasi, research vice president at Gartner. But because hardware expenditures are far lower than other hidden costs of BYOD, he says, the question is not whether costs will go down but whether they will rise or stay the same. "BYOD probably will not save you money," DeBeasi says.
While others believe cost savings can be had, they are only achievable when costs are recognized and strategically managed through well-designed policies, says Hyoun Park, principal analyst at Nucleus Research. However, "most companies do not do BYOD in a cost-effective manner," he says.
With that in mind, we have investigated the costs that must be either counted or reined in to pursue BYOD cost-effectively.
Cost Category 1: Devices
In most BYOD programs, hardware costs are the first to go, which is probably why the trend is so often perceived as a big win, cost-wise. In actuality, however, because many companies enjoy volume discounts, hardware savings amount to about $10 per month when spread over the typical 18- to 24-month device lifespan, Park says. This is trivial compared with the other support, usage and management costs associated with mobility, he says.
A complication can also arise for employees with older devices, who may ask for upgrade stipends if mandatory corporate apps require more processing power than their models provide, DeBeasi says. "The policy should require employees to keep their hardware and software at minimum specified levels," he says. "Getting the policy right today saves money down the road."
Cost Category 2: Support
A similar BYOD misconception is that support costs can be completely pushed onto the employee. In reality, since the device is partially a corporate asset and supporting business functions, some level of corporate support is required, Park says. "It's difficult to toss off much of the support costs," he says. "At the end of the day, when employees are having trouble getting into the network or dealing with corporate software, they'll have to go back to the help desk."