Mobile is now an unavoidable part of any business. In fact, even if you haven’t got a formal strategy in place for managing this in your organisation – and you really should have – the chances are that there are already many mobile devices connecting to your network and accessing your data that you may not even know about.

The fact is that no matter how much you try to clamp down on any unauthorised use, employees will always want to use mobile devices. They are often easier, more familiar and more convenient than other platforms and allow staff to stay connected wherever they are. Indeed, four-fifths of respondents to a 2018 survey by Samsung and Oxford Economics said they could not do their job effectively without a mobile phone.

Therefore, it’s important to put an official mobile strategy in place. But building up a company-owned network of devices could be costly and time-consuming, so why not take advantage of the estate you already have access to – the devices owned by your employees?

The benefits of BYOD

Allowing the use of personally-owned devices is known as bring your own device (BYOD) and while it’s not exactly a new idea, it’s one that’s become even more common in the last few years. As smartphones have become more powerful and capable – as well as more expensive for premium models – formalising a plan for BYOD can be a great way to quickly improve your mobile capabilities without significant capital investment.

In fact, Samsung’s research showed that almost a third of businesses (31 per cent) use BYOD as their sole mobile strategy, with a further 52 per cent operating a ‘hybrid’ approach that allows the use of personally-owned devices alongside company-issued gadgets.

But is it the right answer for your business?

One factor in BYOD’s favour is that it can be highly cost-effective. Allowing employees to use their own devices means there is no need for potentially expensive outlay on hardware – something that may be a particular burden for smaller businesses with limited IT budgets.

Then there is the familiarity and convenience factor. People are likely to be far more comfortable using a device they have selected themselves rather than one imposed on them by a company. It means they can stick with the brand and operating system they prefer and not have to worry about the need to juggle two devices for business and personal use in their bag or pocket.

Potential drawbacks to consider

Naturally, there are also a few potential risks to consider when it comes to BYOD, and one of the biggest is the issue of security and control. BYOD strategies will typically have less direct oversight than company-owned devices, so it’s important to have policies and protections in place to mitigate any dangers.

For instance, if employees download a game to use in their personal time on a device that also contains sensitive company data, how can you be sure they won’t be inadvertently installing malware that could lead to a security breach? Even downloading from a supposedly trusted source may offer no protection, as a recent report revealed more than half a million people downloaded one of 13 malware-ridden apps from the Google Play Store late last year.

BYOD also means you may lack visibility into what is taking place on the device, and there is a fine line to tread between being in control of a device and not compromising your employees’ privacy.

While there are mobile device management solutions that can, for example, set up partitions between business-owned data and other information, this requires clear informed consent from users about what you can and can’t do. For instance, if their device is lost or stolen, can you remotely wipe it – potentially taking their personal data with it?

Then there is the liability issue to think about, something that may be of particular concern to businesses operating in more potentially hazardous locations. If an employee drops their own smartphone in your warehouse or factory floor, for example, whose responsibility will it be to repair the device or provide a replacement?

Looking after BYOD devices can be a complex activity, but it’s an essential part of an effective strategy. Without a clear management plan and policies in place, you run the risk of exposing your firm to a range of risks and, fixing these issues may negate any cost savings you’re able to achieve by relying on personally-owned devices.

Therefore, when deciding if BYOD is right for you, consider these key factors before making a decision:

  • What sensitive data will the device have access to?
  • Who is responsible for related costs, such as repairs and data plans?
  • What new policies must be put in place to ensure control?