Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) has been one of the most talked-about trends in IT services in recent years. The perceived inevitability of its adoption – as well as its feasibility and security challenges – have filled inches of column space in the press.
According to one recent finding, a large proportion of people who need a smartphone or tablet for work grab their own device before heading out in the morning. Even schools have started allowing students to bring their own tablets and laptops to class.
Yet how many companies have actually made a BYOD policy or plan to in the coming year?
The answer is probably only a few. Adoption is slow, despite the impression remaining that BYOD has actually taken off and that employees are either demanding to use, or already using their personal devices to access work files and emails.
Among the reasons for its slow adoption is the way we have approached the whole BYOD concept. We've focused on the device itself and identified the smartphone or laptop as the primary security problem.
Let's put things into perspective. The fact that more people are bringing their own laptops or phones to the office or spending more time working remotely doesn't present new security issues. For decades, employees have been taking home company laptops to catch up on deliverables over the weekend.
They have used tablets at client offices during presentations, and personal phones to showcase demos to attendees at global conferences. Taking the job home or out of the office is something most of us have done.
As for safeguarding data on devices, securing BYOD applications with the latest BYOD software is very expensive. Companies are saying no to this added cost and trying to come up with new, more cost-effective ways to keep the flexibility that workers have always craved and demanded.
Consequently, we've seen a rise in demand for desktop virtualisation. Instead of worrying about managing everyone's personal devices, businesses are opting to run desktops as virtual machines on a server. Regardless of whether an employee is accessing their information from a handset, a tablet or a PC, IT administrators can manage and secure all desktop user environments from a central location.
If there's a security measure that needs to be addressed or a necessary software upgrade, everything can be managed by the administrator either simultaneously with all desktops – or one, depending on the requirements.
No need to go looking for the device in question to perform an upgrade or create a patch, because nothing is stored on the desktop. It's all up in the cloud.
Like any IT innovation, desktop virtualisation has attracted some criticism as well. Pundits have argued that any costs saved by centralising management are gobbled up by the cost of needing bigger servers, more software licences, and increased network bandwidth.
However, storing data in the cloud is more affordable than other options and enables you to get rid of localised servers.
Plus, the cost of replacing a stolen PC or a broken phone filled with highly sensitive company data is usually more than the cost of rolling out desktop virtualisation.
Furthermore, partial virtualisation such as app streaming is another trend that can help reduce the security cost of supporting personal devices.
In this scenario, IT administrators virtualise certain apps that are valuable to the organisation so they are viewable only in the corporate environment.
Once employees leave the office premises, the apps disappear from their phones and laptops.
It's one thing to bring your mobile phone to your office and quite another to roll out BYOD. Everyone likes the idea of bringing their phones to work – but hasn't that always been the case?
Since the launch of personal computers and smartphones, people have taken their devices everywhere – along with their house keys and wallet.
Making things more secure is really the big issue we need to talk about, but let's keep the devices out of the discussion. It's not about the phone but protecting content, and we already have the technology to do that.
Ben Davies is managing director of Comms-care
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