With remote work gaining significant momentum since the pandemic-induced shift in 2020, many companies are enabling bring your own device (BYOD) environments, where employees are allowed to use personal devices to access work-related networks, systems, files, and applications.
In fact, Bitglass’ 2021 BYOD Security Report highlighted that, since shifting to remote work amid the pandemic, 47% of organizations saw an increase of personal devices being used for work. This resulted in a total of 82% of organizations actively enabling BYOD.
Because shifting to remote work necessitated major IT overhauls and drastic changes to the employee experience, BYOD’s cost and UX benefits were highly valuable in smoothing the transition. In addition to these benefits, however, BYOD also gave rise to new workplace challenges.
Without the right tools in place, BYOD environments can lack visibility, decrease IT’s control over the environment, and create security vulnerabilities. This article will discuss the challenges BYOD poses, its continuing rise in popularity into 2022, and how to embrace BYOD safely and effectively to maintain a safe, secure, and productive workplace.
The Perils of BYOD
Regardless of device environment, organizations should be able to set and enforce parameters around how corporate information is accessed and guarded. But when employees use personal devices for work, organizations often have less control over those devices and how they’re used.
Without proper device management, organizations have little to no say over how BYOD devices are used, configured, and secured. Employees accessing sensitive data from unsecured networks, storing data on unsecured devices, or working from an unpatched machine can expose the data to compromise.
BYOD Security Concerns
The 2020 Cybersecurity in the Remote Work Era report conducted by Ponemon Institute highlighted some BYOD-induced vulnerabilities. For example, 67% of the respondents said that the use of personal devices by remote workers to access business-critical applications and assets has hurt their security posture. And smartphones, laptops, and mobile devices are now being considered the most vulnerable endpoints.
With corporate devices, companies can mandate updates, patches, and configuration settings to keep them secure. In a BYOD environment without the right tools, however, they often have much less control over these functions on personal devices.
In these cases, employees could be using applications with known vulnerabilities, storing sensitive information on a device that doesn’t lock, or failing to encrypt stored data. Companies that use BYOD methods need to establish BYOD management measures that allow them to enforce a strong security posture on both corporate-issued and personal devices. Often, it starts with a robust mobile device management tool.
Why BYOD Popularity Continues
Despite its risks, BYOD presents significant benefits that keep its popularity strong — so strong, in fact, that it’s becoming a workplace norm.
Out-of-Pocket Costs Are Lower
One of the reasons that contributes to BYOD’s continual popularity is the cost savings that companies can reap from not having to buy each employee a machine for work. Naturally, this includes not having to pay for device upgrades over time. Even in cases where companies issue a BYOD stipend, the stipend cost is often far less than the cost of purchasing and managing machines for all employees.
It also frees up IT’s time by reducing the number of device-related help desk tickets. In an environment where the rise in remote-related technical issues has spread many IT teams thin, time-saving initiatives are highly valuable and significantly improve productivity.
Flexibility of Choice
Employers also like BYOD for workplaces because it gives their employees more flexibility in terms of where they can work and what they can use for work. Regardless of where they are (on the road or working remotely), employees working in a BYOD environment can use their personal devices for work. When paired with the right tools, remote and mobile BYOD work can be just as productive and seamless as working in an office.
Employee Satisfaction and Retention
Because just about everyone uses a smartphone, most people have developed opinions and loyalties toward different operating systems, and asking them to switch platforms is no small request. Allowing employees to work with devices they know and like gives them a productivity and satisfaction boost right off the bat. These small wins contribute significantly to employee satisfaction and retention, which is especially important in a job market where candidates can apply to remote positions anywhere in the world.
How to Embrace BYOD
Although the concern over BYOD is real, its benefits are significant in today’s remote and hybrid-remote environments — so significant, in fact, that it’s becoming an expected function. For example, 61% of employers expect employees to be available remotely, even if the company hasn’t issued them a mobile device. This expectation, coupled with its benefits, suggest that BYOD may become a business standard.
To fully reap the benefits that BYOD brings, however, organizations need to be able to effectively manage their employees’ personal devices without compromising security, privacy, or the cost of resource management.
BYOD stipends compensate employees for using a personal device for work. These can both incentivize personal device use and encourage good security posture by creating contingencies for the stipend. Consider outlining device security and usage guidelines (i.e., protecting the device with multi-factor authentication (MFA)) and making it a requirement to follow them to receive the stipend.
Effective mobile device management (MDM) solutions that tailor and meet the organizational security and privacy needs — while respecting employee privacy — are critical to maintaining BYOD effectively. MDM solutions can help manage everything from application settings to device security, including mandating full disk encryption, MFA on devices, permissions, and more.
Further, as remote environments become the norm, some MDM solutions have merged with identity solutions to provide unified endpoint management (UEM), which offers centralized management across users and devices. This would allow IT to set device access parameters based on the user’s permission levels, for example.
MDM and device trust shouldn’t be a one-way street; employees should be able to trust their employer to respect their privacy and restrict the scope of their personal device management to only what they need. This is an influencing factor in employee satisfaction and will likely grow more critical to retention as BYOD becomes more pervasive.
Many companies can be over-intrusive in this regard; however, some offer solutions that give the user more control and privacy. JumpCloud’s MDM, for example, helps maintain user autonomy by allowing them to enroll in the MDM themselves. This lends itself well to an optional BYOD program.
In addition to self-enrollment, look for solutions that offer mobile application management (MAM), which grants control on an app-by-app basis (e.g., granting the company access to an employee’s Slack app, but not their personal social media apps).
BYOD policies create diverse device environments — if you’re not issuing employees devices or paying them to purchase new ones, you’ll need to work with what they have. This means that your device management tooling will need to support multiple operating systems.
This is often in conflict with legacy solutions, which often favor one OS over others. Microsoft products are notorious for this: their Windows support usually far surpasses their support for macOS and Linux. Embracing BYOD will mean embracing tools that support multiple device types and operating systems.
Manage with a Cloud Directory
As work becomes more mobile and remote, devices are following suit; devices in the workplace are becoming more mobile and diverse. Because employees work better on a system they know best and employers enjoy cost, productivity, and retention benefits from BYOD policies, BYOD seems poised to become a business standard or default by 2022.
But with these benefits come security and control challenges that necessitate strict policies and close management. In remote environments, this management is the most thorough and secure when combined with identity management and compatible with multiple operating systems.
Cloud directories like JumpCloud are leading the charge of combining identity and device management with security and resource access to make remote work as smooth as the in-office experience (if not smoother). JumpCloud offers OS-agnostic device management that integrates MDM with identity in one unified management platform.
The JumpCloud platform enables IT to control everything from a device’s security settings to how employees can use their devices to access different resources based on their group membership. It uses a multi-protocol directory approach to connect users to virtually all the resources they need to complete their work.
The result is one platform that does the work of three or more — all in one management console, according to one source of truth, and under one price tag. It’s free to try: the first 10 users and 10 devices are free, and you get 10 days of 24/7 premium live chat support when you sign up. Try JumpCloud Free today.