Twenty years ago if you asked the average person whether they used a computer regularly, most people would have told you that they use one at work, but don’t have one at home.
The increased reliance by all of us on the Internet, combined with the introduction of the smart phone, has seen our computer engagement change dramatically. Now not only do most people have one or more PC’s/laptops in the family home, but many of us now also own tablet computers like the iPad.
With such a tech-savvy workforce, many employers in recent years have found their staff are demanding that the technology that they use at work closely matches the experience they have in the home. This means similar devices and operating systems, as well as devices that keep up with the product release cycles that they’re keeping up with themselves.
Workers, wanting to use equipment that they are familiar with, began bringing their devices to work. This has a resounding impact on not only how your staff engage with their workflow, but also it can blur the lines between work and personal lives in unexpected ways.
If implementing a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policy in a workplace, there are many issues that need to be considered. Five of the biggest issues are:
Can Your IT Department Support The Devices?
Traditionally, IT departments have been responsible for selecting all of the equipment rolled out through a company. They would determine which computers and mobile devices best served the interests of the company. With so many of us wanting to use our own devices, this poses challenges to IT departments: Can the device connect to the office network? Will there be software conflicts? Will the device cause security problems?
The needs of every company and every employee are different. While thankfully most operating systems and devices are nowadays enterprise ready, there will be occasional platform conflicts. For example, staff sharing video and audio files can be a problem with some file types not universally supported.
Are you Comfortable With Greater Susceptability To Viruses and Malware?
With devices now connecting between home networked connections to the Internet as well as work systems, the risk of viruses and malware has grown. Before BYOD approaches became common place, computers were only located within the office and therefore were protected by the security protections placed on the network by the local IT department administrators. Now with laptops and smartphones connecting to multiple networks, some more secure than others, there is a greater risk of devices and files on computers being compromised.
Have You Transitioned To The Cloud?
BYOD is a positive shift for many workplaces in that employees have greater familiarity with the devices they’re using, while costs can be saved on technology within the actual workplace. The greatest benefit, however, is the ability for staff to remain connected to the workplace regardless of their geographic location. Staff can log both out of hours work, as well as perform work duties at times they are unable to physically make it into the office.
For staff to be able to engage in work practices away from the confines of their workspace, they need to be able to work on robust software platforms that can be readily accessed from anywhere at any time – this means cloud platforms.
Cloud computing is deeply intertwined with the BYOD movement. Staff want to use the devices they are familiar with, but to work with these devices effectively, work conducted on devices that are always moving to and from workplace computer networks needs to be accessible just as fluidly. The functionality of file sharing, email, word processing, spreadsheeting, and even purpose-built platforms like accountancy software, works at their optimum when staff can engage from any device at any given time.
Can You Control Your Files?
Information today can never truly be contained. We’re all today painfully aware that it can be very easy for information to end up in the wrong place when working digitally – whether it be an email sent to the wrong person, data hacked by competitors, or something more complex like Wikileaks. It is unlikely that the information held by your company is of enough public interest to make its way to an organisation like Wikileaks, but it’s still important that your information is secure for the multitude of privacy concerns that a company must maintain.
When developing security measures and protocols, it is just as important to ensure that any BYOD computers, tablets, or phones meet the same standards as exist for all the other devices that are utilised by your staff.
Are Your Staff Using Their Devices Responsibly In The Workplace?
While one cannot control what their staff do on their own devices, It is important to make sure that staff are abiding by workplace standards and practices. Staff need to be made aware that their device being used in the workplace should be treated just as a device provided by work would be. If your workplace makes it clear that social networking, gambling, bittorrent, gaming, pornography, or other sites aren’t to be accessed during work hours, the same should be extended to personal devices.
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BYOD opens up a wealth of opportunity in how staff think about their work spaces. No longer is the workplace confined to the three walls of a cubicle, but rather the workplace now travels with them in their personal lives with smart phones and tablets. This can deliver both positive and negative effects on any workplace. Before opening the door completely to BYOD, it is important for any business to make sure that they’ve considered the infrastructure, organisational, and personnel ramifications.