Bring your own Device (BYOD) is a term used to denote the practice of employees bringing their own Smartphones and Tablet computers to the workplace. While there are many benefits of this practice, there are potential issues of security and confidentiality of data that arise from this practice. Let us consider the flip side first. The recent move of IBM to ban Dropbox and iCloud in the workplace is indeed a step that has evoked strong reactions. Proponents of the ban argue that unfettered access to company and enterprise data to third party cloud storage sites poses an existential risk to the company since there is a possibility of sensitive data leaking out and being misused. Further, the Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) practice leads to employees circumventing the firewall by accessing these sites which have implications for the security of the company’s network.
Considering the fact that cloud service providers like Google and Amazon offer convenient access to users, it is indeed tempting for employees to access them from work. Hence the BYOD or BYOC needs to be regulated and monitored due to the risks involved. Of course, as it is many employees bring their Smartphones to work and this has resulted in data getting compromised as well as the firewall being breached. Hence, the next thing that the IT managers are looking at is how to regulate the usage of Smartphones without impinging on the privacy of employees. Indeed, Smartphone usage at the workplace is beneficial to the company as well since the cost of communications is borne by the employees both in terms of voice and data. In these recessionary times, CIO’s look to shift the costs to the employees and hence usage of Smartphones and Tablets is something that reduces the costs to the firm.
However, this benefit has some drawbacks as well when one considers the fact that the IT managers can only monitor these devices in so far as they use the company’s Wi-Fi network. With the introduction of 3G and the proliferation of Smartphones and Tablets using this technology, IT managers in many enterprises are short of ideas on how to monitor this aspect. This leads to issues of security and privacy of data as well as unregulated use of devices under the BYOD and BYOC. This is one reason why despite the cost savings that accrue to enterprises when employees use their own devices, companies are still unwilling to go the full distance in this regard. Further, the consumerization of IT means that unfettered access and communication lead to severe risks of outages and leakage of data.
The Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) is indeed catching on among professionals who regularly login to the cloud service provider sites to upload and download data. Again, this is one aspect that needs regulation as the scope for misuse and abuse of the data becomes multiplied with such access. Further, the fact that many of these cloud service provider sites do not invest in secure protocols for access means that there is every chance that even normal data might be compromised without the knowledge of the users. Worse, the IT managers would find it tough to ensure that the data being sent over unsecured networks is indeed safe. Of course, the benefit of employees using their own devices like laptops and tablet computers does tend to reduce the costs to the companies as well as give the employees the flexibility of working from home. However, as has been mentioned elsewhere, the downsides need to be managed before full access to own devices can be allowed.
Finally, it is inevitable that the next generation Smartphones and Tablets would have other capabilities that would present challenges to the IT managers. Hence, without banning the BYOD and BYOC outright, enterprises can regulate them as well as enter into partnerships with the makers of these gadgets to ensure that there are no security and privacy issues. In conclusion, the situation now is similar to the 1990’s when webmail was introduced and companies had to grapple with ways and means to regulate it. The fact that they did find solutions to that issue means that we can expect the present situation to end amicably as well.
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