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Jumping the Firewall: The BYOD Imperative

If there’s one department in every company that’s equal parts loved and hated but nevertheless always vital, it’s IT. Don’t get it twisted — the hate is more out of frustration that they won’t let us download free music than anything else. But if there’s one hangup they just might have to let go of completely, it’s banning employees from using personal gadgets to get their work done. Unsecure and unsupported as they might be, consumer devices-turned-professional, or BYOD (bring your own device) is a quickly growing trend in our increasingly on-the-go, progressively more mobile workforce.

Once Upon a Corporate Laptop

For years, the most an employee could count on from their new gig was a desktop computer. Clunky, slow, and clearly not mobile, these devices forced people to stay late, hit the office on weekends or do the whole copy-to-a-disk dance in order to bring work home or anywhere else. When laptops became the norm and the internet conquered storage and communication, the bigger issue was access — the unknown of the web harbored many a malicious cookie, and businesses were rightly unwilling to risk then-super-expensive machines and classified networks.

Not that we want to jump the gun — BYOD isn’t totally safe or synced just yet. But sometimes, our buddies in IT believe that process trumps innovation, or that the two don’t have a relationship with each other. In the past, when networks were truly at risk from user devices and we were chained to our desks, they had a stronger case. Not so much anymore: innovation is paramount, process secondary, and capitalizing on creativity means catering to a variety of work personalities and styles.

Thankfully, through some relatively minor hardware adjustments and the implementation of device-management applications, IT now has the tools to keep things in check while still letting users choose their own gadgets.

BYOD: Not Just for Hipsters

New technology means new ways to access data. It means advanced communication, mobile advantage, and the ability to streamline processes, projects and collaboration across teams, whether they’re on-site or remote. It’s not about how fancy that sweet beeper looks anymore, and it’s not just top-level managers who need to be fully accessible and constantly engaged. Today’s workforce is a widespread, fluid entity with a heart that beats 24/7 — and with mobile devices that are more affordable, portable, and connected than ever before, BYOD is more of a necessity than a nicety.

Sophos makes an excellent point about restricting the use of consumer gadgets: “It’s risky to assume that prohibiting personal devices solves the problem, because employees end up using their own devices anyway, unmonitored and undeterred by your security policies.” Absolutely true. The good news? As technology has matured, so has our hardware, and more importantly, the essential methods of protecting personal devices no longer require complex, specialized platforms. Because security measures are literally built in at the core, malware and even inquisitive users don’t stand a chance — according to a study by Intel, the risk of network infiltration is considerably lower that it once was, so long as use of personal devices is implemented with the same care and control as any introduction of new technology.

Organizations that take advantage of BYOD will find that it symbiotically drives productivity and security because it’s adaptable and universally appealing. Users are more connected, more aware of and more invested in the protection of their own stuff, and subsequently, company initiatives that are dependent on that stuff.

In other words, BYOD is just better for business.

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