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How BYOD impacts the future of unified communications

Unified communications has set off a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement by allowing employees to use their personal devices for work. For many companies this is beneficial, but it also carries risks for network integrity and employee security awareness. According to Barnes & Thornburg, nearly 60% of organizations operate without formal BYOD policies and approximately 80% of organizations don’t educate employees on BYOD risks.

BYOD means, at some level, a company is going to adopt a unified communications (UC) philosophy, enabling employees to access work-related applications from anywhere on almost any device. But without proper consideration and policy implementation, BYOD can blur too many lines between personal and professional digital activity. The goal with BYOD is to create a safe, unified gateway for work-related activities. This way, employees can use their own devices but still be safeguarded from potential cybersecurity threats that target insecure networks and systems.

Before introducing a BYOD policy, companies need to evaluate how it could impact business. To make this process simple, we’ve created a list breaking down the pros and cons of BYOD company integration:

Pros

Cost savings

BYOD is cost-effective by nature. Allowing employees to bring their own laptops and tablets means companies avoid lofty costs associated with supplying employee devices. According to Gartner, direct costs of user-owned tablets are 64% lower than enterprise-owned tablets, meaning companies can dedicate resources to more important growth areas. With BYOD, companies also don’t need to worry about constantly updating devices to accommodate new product releases; ultimately, upgrading to the latest device would be an employee’s decision.

IT familiarity

Time is also a valuable currency. A Repsly cost analysis states the average BYOD user saves 81 minutes per week, suggesting personal devices can improve efficiency. This is because employees are comfortable with their personal devices and don’t need significant training to learn new IT system capabilities. This also reduces the chances of employees running into knowledge gaps or IT barriers, further minimizing employee frustration and maximizing productivity.

Employee satisfaction

Employees have expressed the need to feel empowered at work. Allowing them to use their own devices can help them realize that control while at the office. Implementing a BYOD policy also signals to employees that management trusts them, their judgment and their work initiatives. This can go a long way in helping employees feel valued and productive. For instance, they can use a mobile soft phone app to get their work calls forwarded to their mobile device, access work email, and collaborate on files from their mobile device for a seamless experience when working remotely.

 

Cons 

Security

BYOD can boost both employee gratification and the number of security risks a company faces. The inability to contain attacks, a problem exacerbated without system consistency, enables cybersecurity threats to infiltrate and spread across a system to inflict more damage. As hackers find new ways to highjack and exploit company networks, organizations must ensure they provide employees with secure network access. Here virtual private networks, commonly known as VPNs, and robust anti-malware scanning software can help. The goal is to prevent insecure home or public connections from compromising sensitive company information. This need for securing access on remote networks is an increasingly important issue, as access to UC applications can take place on any device — company-owned or not — from any network.

Policy challenges

As with any structural change, implementing a BYOD policy can create management complications. Companies may run into friction when it comes to streamlining policies. While some employees may love the idea of utilizing personal resources, others may resent having to pay for their technology and have their hands tied while using it. Additionally, the self-provided devices employees use might not be best equipped for the type of work at hand. For example, a design-heavy job may demand Mac software that doesn’t run on a Windows PC. The benefit of supplying all employees with uniform devices is that the software is tailored to best accommodate the needs of both the company and the employee. It also gives employees a clear understanding of how these devices are to be used and what applications may run on them.

Still, employees will need to understand and agree to remote-access policies even if they are provided with a device. Without this understanding, companies risk employees accessing sensitive data from unsafe networks — regardless of whether it’s their own device or the company’s device.

Inconsistent support

Stemming from device inconsistency, companies should factor in the lack of specialized IT support. IT support usually caters to a company’s specific set of needs. With employees using various types personal devices, it’s more difficult for companies to offer in-depth IT specialization.

The BYOD market is expected to grow from $67 billion to $181 billion by 2017. It’s more than just another IT trend. When considering BYOD migration, businesses should know how new unified communications policies could impact employee productivity and overall company performance. Although BYOD comes with its fair share of challenges, you can opt to incorporate security solutions that ensure your BYOD transition is smooth and secure. Ultimately, as BYOD gains industry momentum, companies must carefully survey their IT options to acquire a clear understanding of how BYOD policies impact employee productivity and satisfaction.

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About Mark Sher

Mark is the Vice President of Product and Marketing for Cloud Voice at Intermedia.