BYOD from the employee's POV

BYOD for the employee has lots of benefits - and drawbacks.

byod_wipe-600x450.jpgflickr/mollypop
BYOD is great - unless your company wipes your device.

There’s been lots of chatter lately about the pros and cons of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), but most of the analysis is done from the employer's perspective. But let’s not forget that it takes two to tango (so I’m told; I don’t dance). Employees are also involved in the BYOD equation, but not a lot has been written about the pros and cons from the BYODer’s point of view.

There are some obvious benefits to the worker getting to use his or her own device at work, particularly flexibility and convenience. Employees can choose the device (do you prefer iPhone or Android? Windows Phone or BlackBerry) and don’t have to be saddled with multiple devices (who wants to carry around two smartphones?). But it’s not all wine, roses and Twinkies; there are some potential gotchas that you BYODers should be aware of, if you aren’t already.

I’ve experienced some of the drawbacks to BYOD from the employee's point-of-view first hand, but, in order to get a deeper understanding of the issues, I spoke with Kevin Baranowski Director of Sales for Align, a global IT solutions firm. In addition to the benefits I mention, he also emphasized the following drawbacks to keep in mind if you BYOD:

1. Loss of control. Obviously, employers that allow BYOD have to be concerned with security. By using your own device to access corporate servers, applications or data, you are giving up some control of the device that you paid for and own to your employer, so that they can implement security precautions and policies. This can mean that:

Your employer can wipe some or all of your device. Your employer will often be able to wipe your device remotely in case it’s lost or stolen. Likewise if or when you leave the company, the firm may also choose to wipe the device (or roll it back to it’s state on the date you were hired). “We see this in the legal sector especially,” says Baranowski.

For mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, mobile device management (MDM) enables companies to remotely manage (and, yes, wipe) mobile devices. In some case, says Baranowski, MDM allows companies to securely wall-off or “sandbox” corporate data and applications on an employee’s device. This means that, in the case of employee departure, the employer can wipe just that portion of the device, leaving all personal data and applications intact.

These issues are lessened for laptops, thanks to the rise of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Companies can more easily manage and restrict (and ultimately shut off) remote access for the employee’s device using VDI, without impacting any personal data.

Your device may be subject to corporate usage policies. Once your device is on the corporate infrastructure, use of it could be restricted by company policy. MDM now gives employers the ability to enforce these policies on mobile devices. This can potentially mean no more using 1234 as your smartphone’s password, installing the Facebook app or using the camera.

2. Replacement costs. In addition to loss of control, you will generally be responsible for replacing a device that gets lost, stolen or damaged. The fact that your new iPhone was stolen while you were on a business trip, doesn’t necessarily mean that your company will pay for a replacement. “9 times out of 10 if a personal device is lost or fails, the employee is on his or her own to replace it,” says Baranowski.

3. Loss of privacy. Having access to your mobile device now means your employer can know all sorts of stuff about you, including your whereabouts at just about any given moment. Not to mention everything that you’ve been doing on that smartphone.

So what should questions should employees ask when going down the BYOD road? “Be sure you understand the company’s BYOD policy,” Baranowski urges. Consider questions like:

What’s the policy when the device is no longer on the network or during non-business hours?

What happens when you leave the company? Will the device get wiped or rolled back to it’s state at the time your employment started? Does the company get access to the device at the time of your exit for inspection or wiping?

Who owns the data that was on there during your time of employment?

What restrictions are placed on devices that access the corporate infrastructure?

Food for thought, yes?

Overall, the benefits of BYOD to the employee can be great, but there are important issues to consider. New technologies such as MDM can lessen the impact of BYOD, should something happen, but they can also make it less attractive to an employee. Make sure you understand your employer’s policy.

And when travelling on business, keep a tighter grip on that smartphone.

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