CEO Journal

BYOD Is Risky, but the Alternative Is Worse

Business team meeting in an office

It’s hard to imagine getting through the workday without a smartphone, which is remarkable when you consider the technology is only a decade old. As soon as smartphones hit the market, users instantly recognized their potential as business tools. To illustrate, between 2009 and 2010, the use of mobile devices by Intel employees tripled from 10,000 to 30,000.

A decade later, using mobile devices — particularly personal mobile devices — has become the norm. Data from Microsoft shows that 67% of people use personal devices at work, regardless of whether those devices are technically allowed. Recognizing that users are going to rely on devices even if it’s prohibited, companies have adopted an approach where devices are allowed but regulated.

“Bring your own device” policies are meant to guide how individuals use personal devices for work purposes. The goal of these policies is to ensure that the valuable company data inside of devices isn’t being put at risk when it travels outside the company office or IT network. Essentially, BYOD policies are a way to leverage the benefits of mobile devices while managing the risks.

Support for these policies has been growing steadily in recent years. According to one survey, 36% of responding companies adopted a BYOD policy in 2017, and by 2019, it had grown to 59%

Policies look different at every company, but they all address common risks: data management, activity auditing, policy enforcement, theft protection, and more. Even though BYOD policies are not yet universal, they’re headed in that direction. That’s because the alternatives — operating without devices or putting sensitive data at risk — are unacceptable.

Why BYOD Is a Priority

It’s not hard to see why BYOD policies are so important in today’s cybersecurity atmosphere. Mobile devices are full of important data as well as links into a company’s IT network. Hackers can capitalize on this collateral to launch attacks. Mobile devices, being both easy to steal and relatively easy to hack, are an obvious target — sometimes the first and only target. Without some form of BYOD policy in place, these devices are basically sitting ducks.

These policies aren’t just about cybersecurity, though; they also help companies navigate the complexities of having employees use their personal property for work purposes. For instance, if someone’s phone breaks, would the company be responsible for replacing it? BYOD policies should answer these questions, carefully outlining the responsibilities of employees and employers.

In order to ensure that employees follow policies, companies are implementing mobile device management technologies, which give administrators broad oversight into the devices under management as well as direct control within individual devices. For example, administrators could remotely delete an app linked to a company credit card if a phone was stolen.

Realistically, MDM technology is even more important than the BYOD policy. Given the nature of mobile devices, it’s especially easy for users to ignore best practices — even official rules. MDM technology is what ensures that policies are more than just suggestions.

It’s undeniable that mobility is good for business. In fact, businesses could gain an estimated 240 extra hours of work from each employee annually thanks to mobile working. It’s also undeniable that mobile devices are potentially ticking time bombs: A BYOD policy combined with an MDM system bridges the gap between these two positions, ensuring that mobility isn’t a liability.

BYOD Over the Next Five Years

Based on the course of BYOD over the past decade, it’s possible to predict where it’s headed. Being able to use personal mobile devices at work makes people feel more comfortable (because they can exchange a text with their partner, etc.), and it also makes them more productive. At the same time, it saves companies the cost of buying phones for employees. Since mobile devices are good for all, they’ll likely become even more essential as everyday business tools.

Growth in usage will mirror the growth in the BYOD market. It’s projected to reach $367 billion by 2022. That’s an astronomical figure, but it helps to underscore how ubiquitous mobile devices will be in the near future.

In addition to becoming more common, expect BYOD to become more flexible. Users may have the option to use a personal device or one issued by the company (or some combination of both). BYOD policies will also evolve to encompass more than just phones, addressing everything from smartwatches to the PCsPerhaps the easiest prediction to make is that fewer disasters will originate from devices, at least at companies that prioritize BYOD and MDM. Using more devices more often can only lead to more risk. Those who acknowledge that risk and address it preemptively have a lot less to worry about in a mobile world.


Written by Dennis Turpitka.
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Dennis Turpitka
Dennis Turpitka is founder and CEO of Apriorit, a software development company that provides engineering services globally to tech companies, including Fortune 500 tech giants. Turpitka’s team works and lives in Ukraine. Dennis Turpitka is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.
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