Pros and cons of 3 common BYOD management strategies

As companies start allowing employees to bring in their personal mobile devices to work, IT departments need to find a way to manage those devices. Here’s a look at some of companies’ most common BYOD management strategies. 

BYOD is a big challenge for IT departments, according to a recent Spiceworks survey. Although adoption of bring your own device policies and programs is growing, companies are still figuring out the right ways to manage the influx of new smartphones, tablets and computers.

Among the 1,000 IT pros surveyed, the majority (61%) said their company supports BYOD. However, only 17% of the survey respondents said they fully embrace the trend. For 23% of IT pros, users’ personal devices create huge headaches for their department, while 33% say BYOD works well for some devices but not others. The remaining 27% don’t have an opinion yet.

One of the top challenges is the added complexity that BYOD brings. On average, companies with BYOD programs support two different smartphone platforms, and three different tablet platforms.

Companies must also deal with new threats stemming from lost or stolen devices, employee misuse of those devices, mobile malware, and other factors.

What can IT do to allow BYOD without significantly increasing support costs, or exposing sensitive company information to new security threats? These are some of companies’ most common strategies when it comes to BYOD management:

1. Mobile device management (MDM)

One strategy IT experts often recommend: Deploy mobile device management (MDM) software for any personal device that’s allowed to connect to the company’s network.

Those systems allow IT departments to track which devices are on the network and control which devices are given access. Companies can use MDM software to push software updates and blacklist apps as well as enforce security policies — for example, making sure that all devices have encryption turned on and password protection enabled.

Despite those benefits, the majority of companies aren’t using MDM to help with their BYOD management. Among the organizations surveyed by Spiceworks, 56% don’t plan to implement mobile device management (MDM) at any point in the next six months. Among the rest, just 17% currently use MDM, 20% plan to do so soon, and 8% aren’t sure.

The biggest reason: Many companies don’t see enough of a threat to justify investing in the software. When asked why they aren’t using MDM software, the top answers given were:

  • Lack of a real perceived mobile security threat (cited by 49% of IT pros)
  • Lack of knowledge on what solutions need to be implemented (36%)
  • Not enough room in the budget (34%), and
  • Insufficient resources to manage devices properly (29%).

2. Divided devices

One of the new trends manufacturers, developers and mobile carriers are pushing to help companies with BYOD management: devices that can be easily divided into separate work and personal sides.

That’s one of the key features in the newest line of Blackberry smartphones, and Samsung, AT&T and others have rolled out similar options.

The basic idea is that a smartphone or tablet is divided into two partitions — one for work-related use, the other for personal. That allows companies, for example, to encrypt data on the business side and control which apps are installed, without imposing too much on employees’ personal use of the phone.

Also, the division makes it easier to wipe all company data after someone leaves the company, and if a device is lost or stolen, the company can decide to wipe only data on the work-related side.

However, experts warn those dual-persona devices won’t solve all BYOD management problems. One challenge is that for the idea to work, users must be diligent about putting all data in its right place. That may not always happen, especially given how easy it is to put information in a personal cloud storage service, like Dropbox or Google Drive.

3. Just a policy

As companies’ approaches to BYOD continue to evolve, many are still focusing on creating a BYOD policy, without taking any additional steps to monitor or enforce compliance.

That policy typically lays out which devices are allowed to be brought in for the BYOD program and what employees are forbidden to do with their personal devices once they participate, as well as what actions the company is allowed to take with a personal device.

The advantage of that approach, of course, is that companies don’t have to spend any money on new technologies. The downside, though, is that IT may not notice a policy is being violated until it’s too late and sensitive data has been breached or other problems have been caused.

Choose the best approach for your organization

However companies decide to approach BYOD management, one thing should be clear: Doing nothing and allowing users to bring in any device and use it however they want is not an option.

At the very least, experts recommend writing and distributing a clear BYOD policy and requiring all devices to be inspected by IT before they’re given any access to company resources.

What is your company doing to manage BYOD? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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