December 07, 2010, 2:23 PM —
The increasing growth of smartphone (and now tablet) use by consumers has been both a gift and a curse to employers.
It's a gift in that workers are buying their own smartphones and often using them for professional tasks and projects. That improves connectivity on the road and at home as well as over productivity at no extra cost (since the employer doesn't have to spring for the smartphone or service). It even means that some employees are giving up company-provided devices for their own simply because they like an iPhone or Android phone more than their BlackBerry or outdated Windows Mobile phone – which reduces cost even further. This has all led to BYOD (bring your own device) policies in a lot of workplaces (sometimes officially stated, sometimes by tacit agreement).
For employees, of course, it’s a big win. You get to pick the device, the carrier that works best at home, on the road, and in the office. You also get to use that device for personal email, texts, home related to-do list, music and video, and to run any number of apps for either personal use or for work tasks. Depending on your employer you might even get reimbursed for some of the cost (or be able to write some of the bill off your next tax return).
It's a headache, however, because with the increasing diversity of smartphones makes it much harder for IT departments to control what corporate data is on mobile devices that could be lost, stolen, or compromised by malware. When employers were providing devices like BlackBerries, it was easy for IT to regulate security policies about encryption, access to data and resources, set approved (and secured) app choices, security-related functions like VPN and public Wi-Fi, and to instantly wipe a lost/stolen device.
For many companies, there has been no good solution to trying to marry the advantages of employee-owned devices with the need to control and secure either the entire device or confidential work-related information on it. A number of companies have tried to provide employers with management solutions and have had some success in doing so.
Even so, if you're an employee bringing your Droid Incredible into the office and using it to help you get your job done more efficiently and effectively, it isn't going to seem fair for your employer to limit access to features and apps, internal resources, or to allow remote monitoring of your personal smartphone.