Mobile Communications

Bob Pritchard (US) - BYO is Here to Stay

For the last year I have commuted, nearly every week, from the Boston area to Clearswift's U.S. headquarters in Mt. Laurel, NJ. Through many evenings exploring the local gastronomic delights, I have discovered a phenomenon that seems to be prevalent in New Jersey, (no, not Snooki or The Situation,) more so than in other States. I am talking about the Bring-Your-Own (BYO) restaurant. The main benefit to the customer is the much larger selection of wines at the liquor store at much lower prices than on a restaurant wine list. Other than the minor inconvenience of picking up a bottle on the way to dinner, there's little or no risk involved.

Much to the dismay of IT departments everywhere, the BYO concept is not limited to restaurants, and is certainly not limited to the Garden State. It's pervasive, ever-expanding, and to a lot of CIOs, downright scary. There's a lot more at stake than picking the wrong bottle of shiraz. There are implications in terms of intellectual property, confidentiality, and perhaps most importantly, your brand.

With newer and better smart phones, tablets and laptops appearing on the market faster than my 13-year-old types a text message, it would be nearly impossible logistically, and completely out of the question financially, for most companies to equip their employees with the latest and greatest in technology. As a result, many tech savvy employees, particularly the younger ones, are choosing to use their own devices in place of the often clunky, utilitarian laptops and cell phones provided by most companies.

The upside is increased enthusiasm and productivity as employees communicate and innovate on devices with which they are comfortable, but the downside is the risk involved in trying to manage an IT network, particularly from a security standpoint, comprised of a dazzling and ever-changing panoply of devices.

This growing trend has been reflected in Clearswift's recent Work-Life-Web research. 24% of managers and 11% of staff report that their companies actively encourage the use of personal devices such as tablets or smart phones for work purposes. Embracing employees' freedom to use the devices they choose can help productivity as they can choose the device that best suits their style of working. It may also mean that an employee may be more inclined to stay on top of his or her work-specific e-mail after hours or while on vacation if it's on their personal device. It blurs the line between work and home. The issue is control, or rather a lack of control, when it comes to personal communications.

Here in the U.S. however we are the most enthusiastic toward the BYO trend, with 35% of managers reporting that this is encouraged. However, countries such as Germany and Japan are more conservative, with 18% and 15%, respectively, encouraging the use of personal devices. In Germany, 41% report that they actively limit such use. The trend is strongest in the U.S. where, not surprisingly, the level of blurring between employees' work and personal lives seems to be highest. Some companies have chosen not to support BYO devices, to the detriment of their security, due to the reality that, whether companies allow it or not, a certain percentage of employees will continue to use their own devices for work, especially those aged 18-24, of whom only 35% claim they would stay at a job in a company with a web 2.0 policy they found objectionable. Many of these may not have suitable anti-virus or firewalls installed on their equipment.

So what is the answer? With the BYO trend here to stay, companies need to view personal devices as an extension of the company network and adopt more flexible security policies. Educating staff on an ongoing basis on web and email policies and encouraging them to adapt their behavior are just two components of a unified policy that should also include the development of device-agnostic procedures governing all business data, regardless of its origin or destination. For this to happen, all data must leave and enter the network over a secure corporate connection, rather than directly over the internet.

By Bob Pritchard, Vice President of Americas, Clearswift





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