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The true cost of BYOD

Five best practices - that weren't in your short-term strategy - for sustaining a rapidly changing mobile environment

By Ralph Shaw, iSimplyConnect, special to Network World
September 04, 2012 11:03 AM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

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?

Working with companies of all sizes and across many industries to define mobile strategies and policies, we've been able to identify the constant threads that drive successful enterprise mobility. Here are the five best practices for developing mobile policies to avoid pitfalls that often translate to increased IT expenses.

A sampling of BYOD user policies

1. Invest in technology that has long-term benefit. With the rapid evolution of technology, it's difficult to differentiate what's going to thrive and what's merely a fad. Keep tabs on the market and don't let the pressures of competitors or even employees overly influence your decisions. Investments into costly, complex hardware and software don't always make sense when there's a question of obsoleteness in a few years. There are options that'll get the trick done without the hefty price tag. For example, look for pay-as-you-go solutions. Whichever way you go, be sure to align technology investments with overall business strategy, including future growth and direction.

2. Avoid vendor lock in. Previously, hardware, software and consulting plus integration and support was available from one vendor. Enter the post-PC era, and IT is responsible for researching, contracting and dealing with multiple vendors. Therefore multiple sources of lock in (contracts, equipment, and major investments of time, training) threaten IT. Ensure that there's an opt-out clause in all contracts and achieve what's best for your company. If you're not comfortable, don't sign, period.

3. Achieve scalability across all processes and solutions. The bottom line is that enterprise mobility strategies need to be flexible. Mobility is growing and becoming more complex, and even when all employees are wirelessly connected to your network your job isn't done. New devices are hitting the market more frequently than ever — not only the newest versions of existing product, but also new form factors, like Microsoft Surface. Ensure your company is practicing scalability internally and also externally when working with vendors and third parties.

4. Develop usage policies. The beauty of mobility is that the business network can be made available to employees anytime, anywhere — offsite meetings, working from home, overseas. But that last one, overseas, is often a source of devastating overage charges. International use of mobile devices doesn't have to cost your company tons with the help of effective usage policies. Perhaps checking email and voice calling are okay, but streaming data and SMS are not permitted. Whatever it may be, be sure to clearly define, communicate and enforce policies.

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