Bring your own devices (BYOD) explained

Secure collaboration

The ‘bring your own device’ culture (or BYOD, as it’s known) presents a security challenge to businesses. Because these devices could inadvertently transfer harmful malware or viruses to the business network, it’s right to be wary — especially in an environment where working from home has become the norm. 

BYOD isn’t a new trend. For years, employees have brought their personal devices into the workplace. Devices include laptops, tablets, and smartphones — the use of the latter has increased in recent years, with many people relying on mobile apps that make their lives and jobs easier.

As businesses support more people with flexible working arrangements, personal device use is only going to grow. Employees can expect a new way of working post-pandemic, one that gives them the freedom to connect on the go. While there are risks involved, there are a number of benefits that come with BYOD.

The increase in working from home

The pandemic has accelerated shifts toward remote working, and, for many employees, it’s been a positive change. Data from the Office of National Statistics showed that the proportion of adults who did any work from home in 2020 rose to 37% (compared to 27% in 2019). When asked about working from home, many indicated work-life balance was the greatest positive, while collaboration challenges were the greatest negative.

Flexible working arrangements are likely to stay, with plenty of employees choosing to remain connected to work through their own devices. However, remote working doesn’t suit everyone, and the need for collaborative working and social interaction with colleagues means that a hybrid work situation is likely in most sectors.

McKinsey’s Reimagine Work: Employee Survey, conducted January 2021, found that 52% of workers are keen to embrace a hybrid working model. This model could increase the trend toward BYOD and is something businesses need to address as the world of work evolves.

IT self-sufficiency

One benefit of BYOD is that it removes the need for the business to supply employees with the hardware needed to do their jobs. There’s a lot of money to be saved when you don’t supply every employee with a laptop and phone. 

This sufficiency can also reduce the strain on IT departments in providing support. On top of this, employees are often more comfortable working on their own devices, which leads to increased productivity.

It’s worth looking at how BYOD can make employees’ lives easier and save money within the business while considering the work needed to mitigate the risks of hardware that come from outside the business.

Access levels for BYOD

When considering how to categorise personal devices, it’s worth thinking about the different access levels you could give to employees. These could include:

  • Unlimited access
  • Access to non-sensitive systems only
  • Access but with IT control over elements such as apps and data
  • Access but preventing local storage of data

What’s best for your business depends on how much sensitive information you have to protect. However, BYOD doesn’t only open you up to accidental data loss – it can also offer new entry points to cybercriminals.

Preventing malicious access

Any device brought in from outside the business could pose a risk, as it won’t necessarily have the same security in place as one set up by the IT department. Malware or viruses could be present on these devices and, by connecting to the business network, there’s the danger of malicious software being installed across the system.

These aren’t the only risks posed by BYOD. Devices from outside the business present a whole new set of dangers, including:

  • It’s easier to fall for phishing scams on a mobile or tablet as a user can’t hover over links
  • Unsecured devices and networks offer potential access to hackers
  • Less control for IT teams over security updates
  • Risk of data theft
  • Malware could spread to the entire business network
  • Data protection and compliance issues
  • Lack of employee training on these devices and associated security risks
  • Shadow IT: devices and applications being used without IT department approval

With remote working comes a rise in the use of personal devices. And with employees wanting more autonomy than ever, it makes sense to allow a certain level of BYOD within a company. However, the risks can’t be ignored. A clear BYOD policy, relevant training, and the correct security measures in place help steer employees in the right direction.

For employees who like to work on the go, a secure workspace is vital. This security allows for the safe sharing of files and data so employees can work collaboratively on the go. Egress Secure Workspace gives employees the freedom to work in the way they want to while minimising the cybersecurity risks inherent in remote working and BYOD culture.

Future of BYOD

The BYOD trend can’t be ignored, and employees are no doubt already relying on personal devices as part of their working day. With no clear policies for this technology, this can leave the business vulnerable. However, with the right systems in place, the BYOD and remote working trends we’ve seen skyrocket in the last year could be great news for your business. 

To benefit from collaborative working, lower IT and office costs, happier employees, and a better-connected team, it’s important to create a culture that protects sensitive data and the business network as a whole. This culture allows employees to achieve more while keeping your business compliant and secure.

FAQ

Why is bring your own device important? 

BYOD presents an opportunity for businesses to empower employees to use newer and more sophisticated tech than the devices a company might typically provide. This opportunity can make employees more IT self-sufficient and better connected — increasing collaboration and reducing strain on busy IT departments.

What is an example of BYOD?

An example of BYOD is an employee working from their personal laptop or using their smartphone to access the internet, calls, messaging, and apps that help them in their job.

Is BYOD cost-effective?

BYOD reduces the amount of hardware a company has to buy for its employees. This reduction means cost savings could be huge across an entire business. However, it’s worth considering the costs associated with keeping those devices secure.