3 safer BYOD alternatives IT can consider

Is your organization looking to get the benefits of BYOD, but wary of the security, legal and other risks of letting personal devices into work? Here are three alternatives to BYOD companies can consider.

Despite IT’s trepidation, mobile devices and BYOD can help companies in a few ways. While those personal smartphones and tablets could raise the risk of data breaches and increase device management costs, BYOD can help companies in other areas, according to a recent infographic published by TrackVia.

One potential benefit: recruiting and retention. One-in-ten executives believe BYOD is a benefit that can help the company find and keep employees.

And 73% of businesses that support personal devices have reported becoming more efficient after a BYOD program was instituted.

Other BYOD benefits cited by business leadership:

  • More creative and innovative employees (cited by 51% of executives)
  • Increased employee productivity (47%), and
  • A greater ability for employees to work while off-site (43%).

Alternatives to a free-for-all

However, that doesn’t mean businesses need to tell their employees to bring in any mobile device they wish. Depending on the security needs of the company, or even individual groups of users, there may be some alternatives that achieve some of the benefits of BYOD without all of the risks.

While different organizations will require different plans, here some of the alternative ways to give users more freedom of choice when it comes to mobile devices:

1. Choose your own device

One of the biggest reasons users have been clamoring for BYOD programs is that they want to use a device that they like and know how to use. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a smartphone or tablet that the user purchases and owns — many companies have given in to that demand by creating a CYOD — or, choose your own device — program instead.

The main benefit for IT is that it’s much easier to control a device that the company owns. Users are more likely to obey the rules and restrictions when using a device that isn’t their own. Also, the company can avoid tricky issues that can arise when, for example, IT needs to erase data on an employee-owned device.

And in many cases, the arrangement works out better for the company as well as its users. Last year, Intel conducted an in-house survey of its employees and found that 72% would prefer to choose a device that was purchased by the company as opposed to using one that they’ve paid for themselves.

For a CYOD program to work, IT should give users a list of pre-approved devices, which can be changed in the future based on new devices that users ask the company to support.

2. BYOD with limited access

Providing company-owned devices to a lot of users may not be very cost-effective, since the fact is that many employees don’t have a real urgent need to use a mobile device. While increased mobility is beneficial for companies, in a lot of cases use of smartphones and tablets is primarily restricted to sending and receiving email on the go.

For users with only minimal BYOD needs, IT can set a separate network with only the necessary levels of access. That way, users can do what they need to on their personal devices without threatening the data contained on the rest of the network.

Many organizations also use a separate wireless network in the office to allow users to bring in personal devices and connect to the Internet without being able to access any other resources.

3. The status quo

BYOD has become the norm for organizations, according to several recent surveys. For example, Good Technology’s Second Annual State of BYOD report says that 76% of businesses are now allowing employees to bring their personal devices in to work.

And many more are planning to do so soon, as only 5% of surveyed organizations have no plans to implement some kind of BYOD program. That was down from 9% that said the same thing a year ago.

But some experts still warn against giving into the hype of BYOD. In fact, a report released late last year by Nuclues Research predicted that BYOD implementation will slow down in 2013, and that many organizations will return to issuing corporate-owned devices.

The reason: Many companies are finding that BYOD costs more than they had expected. While organizations may spend less on hardware and cellular plans, managing a variety of user-owned smartphones and tablets takes a lot of time and effort.

That, combined with the increased security and legal risks, means many businesses that jumped on the BYOD bandwagon are starting to reconsider.

Best bet for companies: IT managers should talk with other decision makers to weigh the benefits of BYOD with the added costs and determine if the organization even needs a BYOD program at all.