The benefits and pitfalls of BYOD

Mar 15, 2021 | News

Life and work have changed in fundamental ways since the pandemic began, and there may be no going back.

Life and work have changed in fundamental ways since the pandemic began, and there may be no going back.

Most obviously, many of your employees are working from home, and the clamour for hybrid working after the pandemic (when staff spend some time in the office and some at home) could be too loud for even the most traditional businesses to resist.

In fact, firms as diverse as Unilever, Twitter and Lloyds have already accepted that working patterns have changed for good. SMEs that won’t offer remote work options risk losing their most talented employees.

One important side-effect of home working has been the increased use of personal devices for work activity. According to research released last year, 65% of organisations say they now allow personal devices to access systems and applications.

As businesses transition to more permanent forms of remote and hybrid work, the use of personal devices will only grow. So should you adopt a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for your own workforce? You need to be aware of the implications before you do.

The pros of BYOD

A year ago, lots of businesses shifted to home working overnight and had no option but to sanction BYOD. With desktop computers and phones stuck in empty offices, workers turned to their own laptops and smartphones to get the job done. It was an emergency expedient with unexpected benefits.

Even before Covid, many businesses knew that employees are often most comfortable and productive working with devices they know well. Think of a lifelong Windows user being told to switch to Apple at work, and suddenly being allowed to use Windows again. It stands to reason that we all work better on the devices we know best.

Then there’s the issue of cost. Many businesses struggled to equip armies of remote workers with the mobile devices they needed at the start of the pandemic, and relied on employees’ preparedness to switch to BYOD.

And while the pandemic is a unique situation, the cost benefits of BYOD are not limited to a crisis. A BYOD policy means buying less hardware at any time. Some businesses pay a proportion of the running costs of personal devices used for work, but even then the price is likely to be far lower than the cost of buying brand new equipment for every employee.

If you have temporary or seasonal staff, BYOD can seem like an even better idea. Why invest in equipment that will lay idle for much of the year?

The cons of BYOD

So what are the downsides of BYOD?

Well, personal devices have to be powerful enough to do what you need them to do, though in most cases that isn’t an issue. In fact, at least 50% of workers believe the tech tools they use in their personal lives are more effective than those they use for work.

Aside from that, the one real downside of BYOD is around security.

BYOD security is a complex issue but it boils down to one inescapable fact. You’re letting a device you have no real control over connect to your crucial data and systems.

That device could be bursting with bugs and choking with viruses. And it could be a very handy back door to your data for cybercriminals who, unbeknown to your employee, are logging every keystroke they make.

None of that makes BYOD unthinkable, but it does make BYOD security a challenge businesses have to take seriously. The fact is that the BYOD cat is out of the bag, and many organisations already rely on employee-owned devices to make remote work feasible. Securing those devices is now a matter of urgency.

Making BYOD safe

So how do you secure an army of personal devices the business doesn’t even own? The level of your response will depend to some extent on the data your employees have access to. The first job of any BYOD security policy is to stop employees having access to data and systems they don’t actively need.

And a BYOD security policy really is a must. At the most basic level, it needs to highlight apps that can and can’t have network access, and enforce the regular updating of software and operating systems. It should also insist on best practice when it comes to PIN numbers, passwords and two-factor authentication. Employees need to read and accept your policy before you let them anywhere near your corporate network.

After that, it’s a case of updating your network security to counter the specific threats posed by BYOD. For example, Vaioni’s managed firewall service includes a sophisticated Virtual Private Network (VPN) for connecting remote workers securely to company infrastructure, regardless of device. It offers protection against malware specifically targeted at mobile devices. And it’s powerful application control system automatically restricts the services that can access your network.

We could go on, but suffice to say that Vaioni’s managed firewall offers evolving threat detection that adapts to meet new risks as they emerge, and extends your security perimeter to home workers and BYOD devices. And because it’s a managed service, you can leave the maintenance and monitoring to us.

Whatever your size and sector, BYOD probably isn’t something you can safely ignore anymore. Working life has changed, and BYOD is a growing and necessary fact of life for many businesses. Security is certainly a challenge, but conscientious companies that act to counter the threats posed by BYOD can also exploit its many benefits.

For more information on security services from Vaioni, please get in touch

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