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What's the Big Deal About BYOD?

Some workplaces are about as friendly to your phone or laptop as the Mos Eisley cantina was to R2 and 3PO in Star Wars. Others wonder: Why make a stink about using personal devices to do work stuff at the office?

Man checking out his cell phone at the officeWoo-hoo! It’s a party, and everyone’s invited! BYOD!

 

I would really like to use my own computer at work for productivity reasons. It would make my workday go quite a bit smoother. That’s not going to happen anytime soon, though — our work computers are locked-down tighter than a ... drum? “Really tight” is the point. And while I understand the reasoning there, it sure would be nice to be able to download and install software without needing to first reenact Oliver Twist with my supervisor.

 

There might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Companies providing the hardware for their employees is a time-honored tradition, but there’s a recent, furious debate about whether it still makes sense. After all, the days of enterprise-class bulk-rate computers leading the tech curve are over. It’s much more common nowdays for an employee to leave a lot of raw processing power at home just so they can work eight hours a day on a clunky, unreliable dinosaur.

 

Many tech professionals (myself included) get to the point where they just want to take their own laptop/tablet/phone to work and use that instead. Their work computer can take a well-deserved break. Forever.

 

This is especially pertinent in a time when smart phones can do almost any task a desktop computer can, and when almost every employee has a smart phone. It’s the mobility of a smart phone that has spawned the BYOD movement — nobody is advocating hauling their personal desktop, or even their tricked-out laptop, to work every morning. Chances are usually pretty good, however, that your smartphone or tablet was already going with you anyway.

 

More to the point, a simple app can turn a Clash of Clansphone into a “call for you on Line 3” phone without the need to lay down landlines or install workstations. The most obvious advantage to businesses is cost: No more need to buy a fleet of computers, no more expense required to keep them current and, on top of it all, greatly mitigated training costs. Hey, your employees are already familiar with their own devices — acclimation time for new hires would be virtually nonexistent.

 

But let’s talk cloud, because don’t we always? In a time not far past, there was a good reason to stay put. Your computer held your contacts and client information, and your phone line was settled-in nice and tight. Again using myself as an example, though — all my important files are in the cloud. I can access them from anywhere, make changes from anywhere, and everybody instantly has access. And because we log-in to our phones, getting our calls is only a download away. So, what’s to stop us from doing the same thing with smartphones? For many companies: nothing.

 

All is not rainbows and butterflies, however, in the magical wonderland of BYOD. Detractors point out that that there’s a big hidden cost: security. Suddenly, the unwashed masses have access to enterprise networks and databases, and it’s going to cost a lot of money to keep everything secure. Internal IT is going to need to be beefed-up, and instead of having one device model to service, you have ... well, as many as Google, Apple, and Microsoft can sell.

 

Also, what about prospective employee who don't actually own a smartphone or a tablet? Ho, ho, that was a jest. There's no such thing as those people in 2015. (Right?)

 

Then there’s monitoring. While I would love to have the advantages of my personal device at work, you had better believe I’ll think twice if it’s on the condition that I install monitoring software. Privacy becomes a really touchy subject at the line between business and personal computing. And what happens when an employee downloads sensitive financial records and then lets his two-year-old play with the phone? Or, even worse, loses it?

 

And let’s talk repair costs. What happens if you break your phone on-the-job? Who pays? What if it just wears out? Is there no compensation for those eight hours a day of wear and tear? Or when an employee ends their employment, do they get their phone rifled through before they leave in order to retrieve any sensitive data? While many businesses have adopted BYOD measures to some degree or another, there is obviously still quite a debate.

 

Well, where there is confusion, there is profit. The two biggest fields that will benefit from BYOD will be Mobile Security and Mobile Development, and there are certifications for both. For security, there’s (ISC)2‘s CSSLP and CompTIA’s Mobility+ certification. Which development certification you choose largely depends on the phone and platform you’re planning to work with, but CompTIA’s Mobile App Security+ is a good starting point.

 

Get certified and BYOD — or at least continue to wish that you could — with confidence.

 

 

David TelfordABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Telford is a short-attention-span renaissance man and university student. His current project is the card game MatchTags, which you can find on Facebook and Kickstarter.