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BYOD in the Workplace: Mitigating the Risks, Reaping the Rewards

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The data management firm SailPoint found in its 2013 Market Pulse survey that 82 percent of large companies (those with 5,000-plus employees) have some sort of bring your own device policy. Cisco reported in its 2012 report, “BYOD: A Global Perspective,” that U.S., Asian and Latin American firms are the most receptive to BYOD policies, while Europe is more cautious about implementation. BYOD offers companies several obvious benefits, such as cost savings on equipment and increased employee productivity. For businesses thinking about adopting a BYOD policy, security remains the primary concern.

Confidential and Proprietary Information

One of the top concerns IT departments have when administering BYOD policies is keeping company information safe. This is especially concerning when employees leave the company and still have emails, documents and other company information stored on their iPad, notebook or smartphone.

The best way to handle this issue is to plan ahead. A written BYOD policy that details exactly what the company expects from employees is essential. It should clearly articulate, among other things, acceptable uses of data, limits of data use and a termination/leaving the company policy.

One solution is to use a third-party enterprise mobility management service to balance the company’s security interests with employees’ desire to use their own devices for work and personal use. BlackBerry offers a popular mobile device management platform, and there are others. Just make sure whichever solution you choose can be implemented across BlackBerry, iOS and Android devices.

International Issues

Regulations as they pertain to BYOD administration vary between countries, which can present problems for multinational firms. Compliance issues are one of the main reasons companies operating in more than one country are slow to embrace a BYOD policy.

Mayer Brown, a global provider of legal services, recommends getting all relevant stakeholders—including IT, HR, security, and compliance departments—involved in drafting your BYOD policy. Companies should also consider which employees are allowed to participate in BYOD programs. Those who have been with the company for more than a year and hold positions with low turnover are good BYOD candidates.

Remote Wiping

Another solution being widely implemented is remote wiping. The hard drive of a former employee’s BYOD laptop, smartphone or tablet can be completely erased by an IT department without warning.

Despite cloudy legal factors associated with this practice, 21 percent of companies surveyed by data security firm Acronis in 2013 said they utilize remote wiping. Lewis Maltby of the National Workrights Institute told BGR.com that complaints from former employees whose devices were wiped are on the rise.

Though a written policy can provide employers some legal protection, remote wiping could potentially violate state computer trespassing laws. Make certain your legal advisors have looked over your BYOD policy before publication, especially if remote wiping is part of it.

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About Shane Avron

Shane Avron is a freelance writer, specializing in business, general management, enterprise software, and digital technologies. In addition to Flevy, Shane's articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, among other business journals.

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