Balancing Freedom and Security with new BYOD Devices

Picture of Rick DelgadoRick Delgado feels blessed to have had a successful career in the tech industry and has recently taken a step back to pursue his passion of writing. He's started doing freelance writing where he occasionally works with tech companies like Dell Computers. He enjoys writing about new technologies and how it can help us and our planet.

The bring your own device (BYOD) revolution has always been a challenge for business and IT leaders. While the concept of allowing employees to use personal devices for work is relatively simple, managing so many devices can quickly turn into a daunting task that even the savviest leaders find difficult to handle. Some organizations have been reluctant to adopt BYOD, but there’s no denying the wave of support the movement is getting.

Gartner has predicted that more than half of all companies will require employees to use their own devices at work by 2017. A survey from Webroot shows that around 61 percent of workers are already using personal devices, even if there is no policy established. It’s clear the BYOD momentum will grow, allowing businesses to explore a universe of possibilities and benefits. At the same time, BYOD management will likely become more complicated as new devices are constantly developed and introduced into the workplace.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the successful adoption of BYOD is that of security. When employees use their own devices while on the job, that means they are going to be accessing corporate data, networks, and systems. While organizations will likely spend lots of money ensuring their data is secured, if the devices don’t have similar protections, all that investment will be for nothing. Data is valuable, and companies will do whatever it takes to ensure it is protected, but employee-owned devices represent risky endpoints. If a device uses unprotected apps or accesses suspicious links, corporate data could be placed at risk of leaking or getting stolen.

Complicating the security issue is the flood of new devices entering the office. This goes beyond new iPhones or Galaxy smartphones, though updated models always bring new challenges to IT departments; instead, the biggest challenges will come from devices that have no real precedent. Smart watches may have been around for a couple years, but the recent release of the Apple Watch will likely bring many new wearable devices into work. The Internet of Things (IoT) is also growing in popularity, so businesses can expect to see more internet-connected devices than ever before. This can all be handled with adequate preparation, but most companies are sorely lacking in this area. A Tech Pro Research study shows that only 11 percent of businesses were prepared for the inevitable wearable wave. If business leaders want to take full advantage of the benefits of BYOD, they will have to prepare to secure these new devices before employees start bringing them in.

While it might be tempting to simply limit the choices of devices that employees can use or place boundaries on how they function, limiting employee freedom with strict BYOD policies would also limit BYOD benefits. That’s why business leaders need to empower their employees with policies that promote their freedom to use whatever device they want wherever they want while still addressing security issues. This may sound like a tall order, but solutions are out there that directly address this. One of the most prominent is the use of mobile device management (MDM) software, which provides a secure platform where organizations can manage employee gadgets while still giving workers a full range of devices to choose from.

MDM can help segregate business from personal data while also allowing organizations to remotely wipe data from devices that are lost or stolen. Luckily, there is a large selection of MDM solutions to choose from, like AirWatch, ForeScout, and Citrix BYOD Solutions. These platforms provide features like pre-approved app libraries and unified management framework giving IT departments added capabilities to manage and secure all employee devices. MDM also provides the infrastructure needed to help workers share and view data from their devices no matter where they are. This increased versatility leads to more productivity and increased customer engagement.

The new universe of devices hitting the market seemingly every other week can provide employees with a wealth of freedom to do their work, but they also usher in new security challenges. With the right preparation, planning, and technological solutions, organizations will be ready to handle the influx of devices and make sure their data is secured. The optimized approach is one that balances the freedom of the employee with the security of the device. Once companies have achieved this balance, they’ll see the impressive benefits of BYOD while maintaining a secure foundation that prepares them for growth into the future.

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