I've written a number of posts on the BYOD trend that mostly highlight how it is reshaping the way business is conducted. Compared to large enterprises, the effect of external devices making their way into the corporate network is felt more on small and mid-sized businesses given their smaller IT departments and budgets.
In all my reading and writing about BYOD, I've come to realize that there are several assumptions on BYOD that are often left unmentioned. I describe what I consider the most important assumptions in the short list below.
Sure, everyone knows about the importance of enabling encryption and the need to set a device password. Left to their own devices, most workers will take the easy way out and ignore these best practices, placing potentially sensitive corporate data in a position where they can be lost or stolen.
Considering that the typical tablet is the nexus of its owner's communications and collaboration, the danger is not inconsiderable. Just to name a few: social networking accounts, email messages, corporate calendars, contact list, bookmarks to important work portals, access to online storage accounts, the list goes on.
With the risks of unmanaged devices so high, the logical assumption is that businesses will be quick to employ the use of device management tools. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen due to the additional cost of these utilities that many SMBs overlook prior to committing to BYOD. In addition, these tools for managing mobile devices are comparatively less mature than those for PCs. This takes an inevitable toll when it comes to efficiency.
A recent report on Network World illustrates the situation best when it compared the manpower cost of maintaining tablets compared to PCs in a hospital.
The Ottawa Hospital has a team of roughly 35 support staff caring for 12,000 PCs, but nearly the same number caring for about 3,000 iPads, and that doesn't include application developers, network support staff and others.
Granted, laptops do break, too. But there is no denying that the sheer portability of tablets and smartphones makes them far more prone to being dropped or otherwise damaged than a laptop, which are typically used on a flat tabletop.
Of course, employee-owned devices that break do not incur any financial loss for the company. Neither may they be promptly replaced by the worker, too, if at all. This is an important point that businesses need to take into consideration when calculating the projected productivity gains; moreover, any mobile data plans paid for by the company could well be wasted.
In conclusion, BYOD may not necessarily be cheaper to implement and maintain than a "traditional" environment made up of desktops and laptops. This is not to say that tablets and smartphones have no place in the modern workplace, but merely a caution that BYOD is not the catch-all solution to the IT woes that it's being made out to be.
Does your SMB support the use of tablets and smartphones? Feel free to share your anecdotes or experiences in the comment section below.