BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

The Real BYOD Impact: Device Fragmentation Challenges - Part I

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon has been around for a number of years. Even where the IT department hasn’t implemented a specific BYOD policy, many users are still choosing to work through their own personal devices. Often, employees are keen to overcome the limitations of the hardware that the IT department provides, which is often seen as slow, old and inefficient, and instead turn to their own quicker and more powerful consumer products. What this means is that in most corporate environments, you’ll find that the average user now has multiple devices, ranging from a smartphone and possibly a tablet, to a laptop and desktop computer.

What we’re seeing in the workplace is a fragmentation in the types of devices that are being used. Previously, each employee would have had the same laptop and mobile phone, with each type of device using one operating system (OS), and having access to the same applications. With BYOD, the fragmentation of devices has expanded to the choice of OS and applications employees use. This expansion of devices within the organisation has left some IT teams grappling with a growing list of form factors and operating systems. Previously, the narrow range of corporate devices being offered by the IT team meant it was easier to manage and keep tabs on them. However, as platforms and devices have fragmented, it has become increasingly difficult to do this. A solution that may work for a Windows laptop won’t necessarily work for an Apple one, for example. At the same time, controls have to be in place for every device on the network, even things which don’t fall under the heading of a consumer device such as a corporate desktop.

The issue is that in situations where control is lost, often the corporate networks, documents and other resources are at the mercy of unmanaged devices. Without management of each and every device connected to the infrastructure, it is impossible to ensure business-wide device policies tailored to the needs of every user. This means a business cannot easily respond when a device is stolen or data is breached, or when a user does something with their device that is in breach of general IT policies. Even an innocuous programme, such as consumer cloud storage application, represents a potential data breach. Also, where it isn’t possible to control and track each device on the network, IT teams could simply not be aware of the number of devices. If a data breach does happen, it is impossible to gauge the scale of the problem.

Ultimately, where a business needs to restrict access or control device usage, these restrictions should be maintained regardless of the device or operating system. The only constant in this equation is the user, not the device. Device fragmentation has meant that this is now truer than ever. If your BYOD policies rely on managing each individual device, then something will always slip through the net. What is needed is a centralised policy that works on all devices, which can be tailored to who is using it and how it is being used. The devices themselves are not the cause of the problem, nor are the users. This is because BYOD is not a technical problem; it’s a business problem, and it must be approached in this way.


Read Part II of this piece, which looks at the importance of an efficient BYOD policy, next week.

Stephen Midgley is Vice President of Global Marketing at Absolute Software


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