These days, desktop computers, laptops, and other digital devices are standard equipment for many businesses’ employees.
However, most employees also carry an array of personal devices like smartphones and tablets everywhere they go.
In the interest of simplicity, plenty of workers try to convince their employers to let them use their personal devices for work. And, in the interest of saving money, plenty of businesses allow it.
That’s led to the rise of so-called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs and policies.
They provide a framework for businesses to allow the use of personal devices without taking undue security risks.
They also help to create a single, coherent technology stack out of countless types of employee-owned hardware.
As you may have guessed, however, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with the concept of BYOD.
In this article we’ll discuss and explain the 10 main pros and cons of BYOD in a business environment.
The Main Advantages of BYOD for Businesses
Although many of the advantages of a BYOD business operating model are obvious, some aren’t. Here’s an explanation of the most important advantages BYOD offers businesses.
1) Reduced Capital Expenses
The most obvious benefit businesses get from a BYOD model is that it reduces capital costs.
Every device an employee brings from home is one less device the business needs to buy.
Plus, it often means purchasing fewer software licenses since some employee devices already have what they need preloaded.
Altogether, a BYOD program can relieve a business of many—if not most—of the costs associated with acquiring and maintaining a significant amount of computer hardware.
It also reduces the costs associated with the typical device replacement cycle, which are often quite steep.
2) Flexibility and Familiarity for Employees
One of the major advantages of a BYOD technology approach is that it grants quite a bit of flexibility to employees.
It gives employees a choice over whether or not to carry around company-owned technology or to rely instead on their own hardware.
In the latter case, employees that opt to rely on personal devices enjoy greater familiarity since they already have experience using them.
For the business, that means shallower learning curves, lower training costs, and employees more prepared to work without assistance.
3) Reduced Device Management and Support Requirements
Another advantage businesses enjoy with BYOD is that they have a vastly reduced device management and support workload.
To put it simply, businesses don’t have to troubleshoot or repair hardware they don’t own. That means fewer tech support personnel to hire and a streamlined IT department.
It also means that the business doesn’t have to manually manage all aspects of employee devices, either.
In most cases, companies with simple technology needs can manage only the relevant software on employee devices.
Or, companies with more complex needs can virtualize the provisioning process, which allows them to deploy pre-built and remotely-executed software packages to employee devices.
4) Improved Productivity and Mobility for Employees
BYOD programs also help employees to be more productive, which benefits their employers.
It makes it so that a broader cross-section of employees has meaningful access to business files and data at all times.
That reduces their need to interrupt their workflows to sit down at a desktop with business network access, just to look up some critical bit of information.
Likewise, a BYOD program also makes employees more mobile. It means they can access necessary business files and data from just about anywhere.
That way, they can answer questions or complete urgent tasks while traveling or from home when the situation calls for it.
5) You Can Hire Top Talent as Remote Workers
BYOD programs also give businesses the ability to tap into a much larger talent pool and hire the best available talent, even if it means letting a new hire work remotely.
By allowing employees to use their personal devices for work, there’s less onboarding required for new hires.
A new hire can get right to work using the hardware they already have rather than waiting for their employer to issue them company-owned kit.
That also minimizes the logistics involved for the business when it takes on a new remotely-based employee.
The Main Disadvantages of BYOD for Businesses
Of course, if everything about the BYOD technology approach was advantageous, every business would be using it. Here are the main disadvantages of BYOD for businesses.
1) No Control of the Business Over the Employees’ Devices
Allowing employees to use their own devices for work purposes means ceding control over how the employee uses their device during work hours.
That means the employee can end up getting distracted by personal business or communications. Or they might play games or browse social media, and the business might have no easy way to detect or stop it.
2) Data Leakage and Security Risks
Another disadvantage associated with BYOD programs is that they vastly complicate business cybersecurity efforts.
It means having countless new endpoints with business data on each to worry about. In that situation, a lost device with no remote management capabilities can be a disaster.
Also, BYOD programs mean entrusting employees to practice good device hygiene and keep their devices secure and updated.
With little visibility into the operations of devices that the business doesn’t own or control, businesses often struggle to maintain a clear picture of their IT attack surface and threat landscape.
For example, a single vulnerable device can—depending on its configuration—allow malware or ransomware to enter the business’s network.
3) Incompatibility Issues
One of the main reasons businesses often opt to provide employees with company-owned hardware is that it makes standardization possible.
If every employee has the same kind of device, it’s easier to find and fix problems, and there’s less of a chance of incompatibility between devices. In a BYOD environment, hardware standardization is impossible.
A business that offers BYOD can have dozens of different devices connecting to their systems and networks. And there could be myriad versions of each device type and multiple software versions in use at the same time.
That makes provisioning software a real challenge and increases the likelihood that end users will experience usability issues on their devices.
4) Employee Privacy Concerns
BYOD programs also often encounter employee privacy concerns, which represents a disadvantage to businesses.
Some employees simply don’t feel comfortable commingling personal and business data on their devices.
That means that a BYOD policy alone isn’t always sufficient, forcing the business into a hybrid strategy that sees them supporting significant numbers of company-owned devices, too.
If enough employees opt out of a BYOD program, they can become more trouble than they’re worth.
5) High Costs of Mobile Device Management (MDM) Solutions
In all but the most simplistic types of business computing environments, administrators can’t allow a BYOD program without some type of mobile device management (MDM) solution in place.
At a minimum, most businesses require the ability to enforce minimum security policies and handle remote software provisioning and configuration.
Fortunately, there are plenty of MDM solutions for businesses to choose from to support their BYOD programs.
However, those solutions aren’t cheap. And, the more control the business wants over end-user devices, the more they’ll need to spend.
Plus, there’s no guarantee that employees will submit to certain types of control over their personal devices, raising the possibility that the business could invest in an MDM solution that goes mostly unused.
The Verdict on BYOD for Businesses
At the end of the day, there are enough pros and cons associated with BYOD programs that it’s just as understandable for a business to offer one as not.
Depending on their specific needs, some businesses might value the flexibility, mobility, and productivity a BYOD program provides over any potential disadvantages.
In other cases, some businesses might not want to open the Pandora’s box that a BYOD program could turn into.
Imagine, for example, a business that goes through the effort and expense of getting an MDM system up and running only to find that employees don’t want to allow the required control of their devices.
Or worse, one that ends up targeted by a ransomware attack that used an employee’s infected device as an attack vector. Both are things that could result from a BYOD program gone bad.
In either case, however, it’s undeniable that BYOD is going to remain a fixture of the business technology landscape for the foreseeable future.
And with more mobile devices coming onto the market every day, it’s a safe bet that more businesses will turn to BYOD to simultaneously exploit and cope with the surge.
At least now, they can do it with a clear sense of what they have to gain and lose by doing so.