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Networking giant Cisco says corporations are embracing employees bringing their own devices to work. In its findings from the Cisco IBSG Horizons Study of 600 U.S.

IT and business, the vendor says IT is accepting, and in some cases embracing, "bring your own device" (BYOD) as a reality in the enterprise.

devices

The study shows benefits and complexities associated with allowing employees to use their own mobile devices on their employers' networks.

The study also found most organisations are now enabling BYOD in the enterprise, with 95% of respondents saying their firms allow employee-owned devices in the workplace.

The average number of connected devices per knowledge worker is expected to reach 3.3 by 2014, up from an average of 2.8 in 2012.

IT managers are balancing security and support concerns with the potential to reap cost and productivity benefits from the BYOD trend.

Furthermore, the survey found BYOD is just the gateway to greater business benefits. Over three-fourths (76%) of IT leaders surveyed categorised BYOD as positive for their companies, while seeing challenges for IT.

Cisco says these findings underscore that BYOD is here to stay and managers are now acknowledging the need for a more holistic approach.

One that is scalable and addresses mobility, security, virtualisation and network policy management, in order to keep management costs low.

The vendor says mobility needs to extend beyond BYOD. It should include the integration of service provider mobility, enterprise mobility, security, collaboration and desktop virtualisation solutions.

So, why do employees want to use their own devices at work?  Let us look at this emerging trend from their point of view.

Employees are turning to BYOD because they want more control of their work experience.

They want to perform personal activities at work and work activities during personal time. Workers are so keen on BYODs that they are even willing to invest to improve their work experience.

Furthermore, corporations are becoming slightly flexible in their working hours and about social media.

For example, unapproved applications — especially social networks, cloud-based email, and instant messaging — are somewhat much more prevalent today than a few years ago. Now, this is all good.

However, with BYODs come security and costs challenges for enterprises. How do they plan to manage these concerns?

According to Cisco IBSG analysis, security and IT support are the top BYOD challenges:

Device proliferation requires new policy, approach to control cost: Approximately 14% of BYOD costs are hardware-related, highlighting the importance of choosing the right governance and support models to control these costs.

When it comes to security, the vendor says only the right people should have access to sensitive company and customer data.

Now, what about enterprises in the Middle East. Are they allowing their employees to bring their BYODs?  

While small businesses with 10 or less employees may look at the concept of BYOD favourably, large firms are not ready to allow their staff to bring their own devices and plug them on their networks.

Security breach is the major concern for these corporations when it comes to BYOD to work. 

Having said that, multinationals like Mastercard and Unisys, and the Kings College London have adopted BYOD to work concept What these organisations have done is to put in place a set of stringent BYOD policy, which has to be followed.

The BYOD Policy: 
*Enterprises should clearly state which devices are allowed to be connected to their network. The market is flooded with various types of phones, so employees need to know which phones are allowed.

Fortunately, the number of operating systems to support is limited.

The iPhone for example, once touted as a must have extension of the iPod for the consumer market, has become firmly entrenched within the business community, with applications designed to suit this purpose.

Other alternatives are Android or Windows mobile based, which is helpful for BYOD corporate adopters, since a uniform security and application policy can be applied across different devices, without having to certify specific hardware.

*There should be a comprehensive security policy in place. Loss of company data is a real threat, regardless of BYOD or company owned assets.

Fortunately, tools exist now which can locate, lock and wipe downloaded data from smartphones and tablets remotely, should there be a need.

The ongoing risk to BYOD especially within the Android community is the  possibility of a user installed trojan program that sends sensitive data to a third party.
*Enterprises should ensure the BYODs work in harmony with their existing technology devices and platforms.

If an organisation is planning to allow BYOD within the workplace, then an internal accreditation program should be in place to ensure the end user technology does not interfere with existing systems.

Also, improve productivity rather than hamper it.

If the mobile version of an application does not contain all the same feature of the desktop equivalent, then the BYOD application can cause frustration for both the end user and the IT administrator.
*Enterprises should have an exit plan when an employee’s contract is terminated.

Firms can not afford to take that risk. Company contacts, documentation, pricelist which are stored on personal devices must be protected with specific exit clauses within an employment contract.

Alternatively, client server CRM-based applications only store a small portion on the entire CRM database on the end user’s device, which minimises the data loss, should an employee depart prematurely.      

To conclude, BYOD is an emerging trend, likely to gather momentum. It provides flexibility to workers to be productive. With stringent security and cost policies in place, this emerging trend can be useful to corporations and their employees.

By Angela Sutherland.

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