Could BYOD go back in the garage?

There may be no avoiding BYOD, but it can be secured.

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) revolution was one of the most significant and pervasive tech trends of 2012. Initially greeted with skepticism by managers and shrouded in secrecy by their employees, it has now become a mainstream business phenomenon. As we enter 2013, however, some are wondering if the risks can be contained as smartphones and tablets assume an even greater role in the workplace.

Turning back the clock
While a number of companies ultimately decided that cost, convenience and/or innovation favored a BYOD approach, many of their initial reservations have not gone away. The primary fear among IT professionals, according to Network World’s Alan Shimel, has been a perceived lack of control. With employees supplying their own hardware, it becomes more difficult to monitor behavior, block applications and protect users from themselves.

This longing for standardization isn’t just for selfish reasons either. According to ZDNet, any department that lacks an awareness of the tools its workers are using is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to business process improvement. Although some employees may excel with a bit of extra rope, the unit as a whole may be less productive as their is no way to institute best practices that can be applied by all.

There are also plenty of employee incentives left in the corporate-provisioned model of mobile device management. First and foremost, workers can gain access to powerful technology at little to no expense. Even if the company only subsidizes a percentage of the device cost, that could represent a couple hundred dollars if you’re in the market for a new iPad or Surface.

What’s more, there’s the comfort of knowing just about anything that could go wrong with your smartphone or tablet can be repaired by the trusty IT guy down the hall. This seemingly simple peace of mind is invaluable to some, according to Shimel, and integration is a breeze when tech colleagues are the ones pulling the strings and selecting the best apps.

This all adds up to a slate of potent benefits, but there is still one outlying variable to account for. Now that employees have gotten a taste of the freedom and flexibility offered by BYOD programs, is there any going back?

Accepting realities, managing risks
Although Shimel was hardly constructing straw man arguments when advocating for the potential of a “hear’s your own device (HYOD)” framework, he does concede that it may not be a wholesale substitute for BYOD.

“Perhaps the biggest reason is the feeling that [company-provided] devices are just another tool for control by my employer,” Shimel wrote. “They can see how much time I spend on work-related matters and how much I use the device for personal use. They can control where I go, what I see and who I talk too.”

While this may be overstating the facts in some settings, most any mobile device management tool does is expand visibility and limit functionality to a certain extent. The trouble is, app selection is becoming a central component of the mobile user experience – as well as their productive potential. As a result, giving employees a certain level of autonomy will likely fuel business results. And there are plenty of established and emerging layered security approaches that help protect company assets from overzealous or misguided workers.

“Yes, there may be industries and companies where HYOD is the only choice. Our device our no device,” Shimel wrote. “But I think those are the exceptions, not the rules. People want to be free, and that includes picking what device you use.”

How has your opinion on BYOD evolved in 2012? What will be the most effective security strategies moving forward? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

Matt Williams

A self-proclaimed ‘tech geek’, Matt has worked in technology for a decade and divides his time between blogging and working in IT. A huge New York Giants fan, when not watching football Matt gets his game on playing Call of Duty with his friends and other tech bloggers.