Bring your own device (BYOD) has become one of the most influential trends that has or will touch the IT requirements of almost every organisation. The term has come to define a technology megatrend that requires sweeping changes to the way devices are used in the workplace.
What is BYOD? Does it mean employees pay for their own devices they use for work? Possibly, but the BYOD trend means much more. It is about end-users being able to use the computing and communication devices they choose to increase productivity and mobility. These can be devices purchased by the employer, purchased by the employee, or both. BYOD means any device, with any ownership, used anywhere.
To understand the challenges BYOD poses, it is helpful to understand the business trends that are driving BYOD adoption.
Previously, employers provided desktop and laptop computers that were typically the most advanced tools to which an employee had access. With the explosion in consumer devices, including laptops, netbooks, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, and others, employees typically have some of the most advanced productivity tools being used in their personal lives. Employees quickly asked their employers, “Why can’t I use these tremendous productivity tools at work?” Many companies initially rejected the idea, citing security reasons and the inability to scale to approve and support more than a small handful of devices.
In the last year, the persistence of end-users demanding to leverage their tablet computers and smartphones to extend their productivity, even if they had to purchase the devices themselves, has led many IT departments to adopt less restrictive policies, allowing employees basic connectivity or, increasingly, full access to the IT network and corporate applications. This trend is likely to be irreversible and every organisation will need to quickly adapt to the consumer device phenomenon.
Multiple needs and multiple devices
Many people had a desktop PC or laptop and added a mobile phone for voice calls. Mobile phones have largely been replaced with smartphones that can run applications and include internet access and a camera. Many smartphones and tablets are as powerful and capable as laptops and PCs, enabling a new class of uses and applications.
However, most people today believe there will continue to be different devices best suited to particular uses. For example, a laptop is not as portable as a smartphone, so people are likely to carry their smartphone for mobile communications. Tablets are powerful devices as well, but it is likely that laptops and PCs will still be used for document creation and publishing. This means people will be more likely to carry and use multiple devices, and making it less likely that a single, all-purpose device will emerge.
The impact of this trend is that many more devices will be connected to the network by the same employee or person, often simultaneously, and leading to a large increase in the overall number of connected devices.
Work and personal overlap
Increasingly, work is an activity that people do, not a place they go to. Extended connectivity through mobile and remote access to the corporate network gives employees tremendous flexibility and increased productivity. It also leads to a blurring of the line between work time and personal time, with employees trading fixed work schedules for the flexibility of working when and where they want to, often interweaving work and personal tasks.
A side effect of this flexibility is that users probably don’t want to carry and switch between personal and work devices. Most employees want to be able to use a single smartphone, tablet, or laptop for both work and personal tasks and not also carry around corporate devices.
Device ownership is not clear cut. Many employees are willing to use their personal tablet or smartphone, for example, to access work applications. Many employers are considering or have implemented subsidy programmes, whereby an employee is provided with money for devices, but it is up to the employee to purchase the device(s) they want.
The effect of this time and device overlap is that corporate and personal data will be increasingly co-mingled on devices, leading to security and privacy challenges.
Anywhere, anytime mobility
It is estimated that mobile devices and the traffic they create on networks will increase almost 30-fold between 2010 and 2015, driven by more powerful smartphones and tablets, with users demanding internet and application access wherever and whenever they want. Enabling this will mean an explosive build-out of wi-fi networks by employers, 3G and 4G networks by mobile providers, as well as public wi-fi by retailers, councils, etc.
The more employees can easily access work using wi-fi and mobile networks, the more widespread these networks will become, thereby further enabling access. The end result is pervasive connectivity anywhere and anytime, which means corporate networks will have more devices connected more frequently, leading to an even wider need for applications to be available around-the-clock.
Video, collaboration, and rich media applications
Work and personal communications both increasingly use rich media, driving a substantial increase in the volume of video and multimedia traffic crossing the network. Collaboration applications and pervasive mobility will continue to further increase the use of rich media.
This concept isn’t going away and needs to be built into every IT strategy.
Mark Johnson is managing director of ConvergeOne.