BYOD early adopters cite sticker shock

Survey reveals BYOD goal is money savings, but two-thirds find none and one-quarter see costs rise more than 20%

Companies are still only ramping up "bring your own device" policies that let employees use their own smartphones and tablets for business, but in many instances, they're finding BYOD is pricier than just issuing devices themselves.

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That's according to a survey of 116 information technology and telecom professionals asked about BYOD, which found that 60% maintain "the traditional approach of corporate ownership and liability," while 22% have a mix of both "corporate liable" and BYOD to accommodate different user groups. One in 10 answering the survey said their companies had gone "fully BYOD" in allowing employees to use their own devices at work, and expected employees to pay all their monthly network service charges in full themselves, while another 8% practiced BYOD with reimbursement.

The survey published Tuesday, "Mobility Temperature Check: Just How Hot is BYOD?," was commissioned by Xigo, Dimension Data's telecom expense management solutions company, with research done by CCMI. The survey took a close look at the question of whether BYOD was saving money for organizations since reducing mobile capital expenses with BYOD was one hoped-for goal, in addition to meeting executive demands and creating a "friendly corporate culture."

"However, two-thirds of respondents who allow BYOD in their organizations said that their mobile capex hasn't changed -- and nearly a quarter (24%) said mobile capex had actually increased by more than 20%," the survey report states. The growing rarity of unlimited data plans from carriers is also having an impact on cost, the report notes.

As to why BYOD might increase mobile capex, the report says one reason is that mixing corporate-liable and BYOD policies could have the impact of negating carriers' volume-pricing discounts. Plus, if companies have agreed to pick up the tab for BYOD, they may find employees use multiple mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

In addition, helpdesk/support costs don't appear to decrease either. More than two-thirds (70%) answering the survey said they saw no change with BYOD, but 28% said costs increased by 20%. "By rights, users who bring their own devices to work shouldn't automatically expect technical support from their IT staffs," the report remarks. "On the other hand, what is the support staff supposed to say when users experiencing connectivity problems or performance degradation come calling?"

The IT staff is increasingly in a situation where they have to "do their best to support a multi-OS mobile environment, particularly since it's not necessarily evident to the end-user whether the cause of problems lies in the device itself, the public cellular network or in the corporate network."

According to the report, most respondents to the survey say their companies reimburse employees for business-related mobile calls and data access, with about half providing a monthly stipend, and half a reimbursement via expense report. The report acknowledges both approaches "have their pros and cons." Stipends tend to fall between $26 and $75 per user per month.

Mobile phones dominate the picture now, with 59% saying their companies have different procurement and reimbursement policies for tablets and mobile phones. Some of this attitude about tablets can be chocked up to the relative "newness" of iPads and other tablets, the report concludes.

According to the survey, 52% said they have a written mobile usage policy that users must sign as part of the management process. Security is a top reason not to go into BYOD. "BYOD has headed into the mobility spotlight during a time when financially motivated organized cyber break-ins are coming into their own, and regulatory compliance issues, if anything, have grown more stringent," the report points out. Nevertheless, executive demands for BYOD, cited by 12%, are hard to if not impossible to turn down, plus 7% admit they "aren't sure how to prevent BYOD" from happening in their organizations anyway.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.

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