Should Companies Institute Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policies?

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bring-your-own-device-byod-policiesThere are perhaps more angers than rewards for instituting a Bring Your Own Device BYOD policy, but most analysts agree that nothing can stop the trend from happening. BYOD is simply too popular to ban altogether, and employers benefit from the arrangement in several key ways. Employees are happier and often more productive, and companies save thousands of dollars on equipment costs. The policy even entices better employees to work for a company; a survey conducted by Unisys reported that 44 percent of job seekers were more tempted by offers from companies with BYOD policies. The dangers are severe, however, and they put employers at risk of data breach as well as lawsuits. Before instituting a BYOD policy, employers need to fully understand the risks.

Risks Associated With BYOD

Perhaps the biggest danger is the theft of proprietary data, and there are several methods for preventing this problem. The most common tactic is performing a remote data wipe on employee devices, but this strategy has its own dangers. If an employer thinks that the company’s data has been compromised, a program can be executed on the company server to delete files on all the employee-owned devices in circulation. Obviously, this situation needs to be approached very carefully. If an employee’s spouse has used the device to store important files, such as wedding pictures or a sentimental voicemail, they will be erased.

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There have been a few cases in which employees explored litigation options after an employer deleted files from a personal device. In one case, an employee brought a laptop to work and was required to allow the IT department to install security software on it. When the employee got the laptop back from the technicians, it had been wiped, and a novel he’d spent years writing had been lost. Employers can prevent these situations by providing employee education and training regarding Bring Your Own Device BYOD policies. It was a very bad idea for the novelist in this example not to back up his data, and regular data backups must be a central part of any BYOD plan that remotely deletes files.

Legal Costs

Another problem that doesn’t happen as often but can potentially cost employers a significant amount of money is data discovery. This situation happens when a court case requires the data on employee-owned devices to be searched by analysts. Employees need to understand that when they bring their own devices to work, they aren’t completely private property anymore. Data discovery is very expensive, and companies have to pay for it in most cases. If employees bring several devices to work, they all need to be searched, multiplying the cost by the number of devices. All of these dangers make it important for employers to outline a very specific employee device policy. It’s a good idea for employers to enforce a one-device-per-employee policy. It might also be a good idea for employees to use separate devices for personal and work purposes. Device ownership isn’t as absolute when an employee uses a personal device at work.

Mobile devices are everywhere, and many people own several tablets, smartphones or laptops. The popular demand is for companies to allow employees to bring their personal devices, but companies must have specific policies in place. The risks and rewards of a Bring Your Own Device BYOD policy must be fully explored.