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Get ahead of the BYOD wave

If you aren't ready, you will get swallowed up

By Network World Staff, Network World
December 10, 2012 03:09 PM ET

Network World - Why fight employees' constant barrage of bringing in their own devices. We are far past that point, it is time to accept it and find a way to make it BYOD work within the confines of your network.

Remember the days when only your executive suite had mobile devices? Or when your company had a “BlackBerry-only” policy?

Now BYOD has swept across your company, with little regard to whether or not IT is on board. And while you’re coming to grips with management and security issues, you may have realized that mobility is eating up your IT budget. New devices, data plans, apps, software — what is the true cost of BYOD?

Once IT departments got over the denial of letting personal devices on the network, the next thought was that this could save companies money by not having to buy devices. That doesn't seem to be the case in terms of seeing cost savings. In fact the issue is how will the IT department be able to support all the different devices. That is where BYOD policies come in to place, which provide both employee and employer with a set of conditions on what is and is not covered by the company.

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.

According to Juniper Research, the number of employee-owned smartphones and tablets used in businesses will more than double by 2014, reaching 350 million compared with almost 150 million this year.

But if your company is like most, you may not have instituted a formal policy that safeguards against BYOD risks. A recent study by security awareness training company KnowBe4 and research firm ITIC found that 71% of businesses that allow BYOD have no specific policies or procedures in place to ensure security.

“There needs to be some policy-based level of control, some sort of documentation or contract or rules,” says Hyoun Park, principal analyst at Nucleus Research. A BYOD policy should be like any of the many documents that employees must sign to receive benefits, outlining their rights, responsibilities and rules they must comply with, he says.

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