Is BYOD for SMBOs A Good or a Bad Idea?

Small and medium-sized business owners (SMBOs) are increasingly getting on board with one of the newest technology trends, now more widely and officially referred to as BYOD (aka Bring Your Own Device). And why wouldn’t they? Allowing employees to use their own handheld and other mobile devices at work to get the job done saves business opportunity, franchise and other SMBOs in particular considerable time and money, especially when it comes to the expense of such things as hardware, software and training.

But is adopting a BYOD policy really such a good idea? Or, is it an idea whose time has come far more quickly than anticipated and for which many SMBOs are unprepared?

We’ll get to that debate in a moment.

Meantime, one thing is for sure, BYOD is on the rise…especially among small business owners. In fact, a study released this fall by leading computer hardware, software and supply company CDW found that 89% of small business employees who now use a mobile device for work actually own it.

And while the majority of SMBOs and their employees will acknowledge that the benefits of this new way of doing things are considerable and that the phenomenon is here to stay, they say it also presents its fair share of challenges, especially when it comes to issues of management and security.

Management, it seems, pertains not only to the professional realm but the personal as well.

In the workplace, BYOD management entails everything from controlling the need for increased storage or server space to ensuring there is all-around compatibility among devices, software programs and formats…and everything in between, all of which takes a tremendous amount of time. And time, as we all know too well, is money.

The concept of BYOD management as it relates to employees more personally, on the other hand, involves their work/life balance. According to the CDW study’s findings, 31% of mobile device users think being instantly accessible all the time by the boss and even customers or clients can be somewhat problematic in this regard.

As for security, 40% of IT managers believe it is a top concern for SMBs with a BYOD policy. Unfortunately, given the newness of the concept as well as its associated challenges, there remains little consensus about the definition of what constitutes an adequate approach to security on this front.

The fact is that many SMBOs are essentially winging it right now as a result. They and their employees are increasingly opting for the convenience that BYOD provides over and above anything else, which could very well result in unforeseen problems. Sloppiness with passwords, a breach of seriously proprietary information should a device get stolen or left somewhere, the inability to control who has access to what, when and where…the possibilities for what can and does go wrong when personal mobile devices are routinely used for work purposes are just now coming to light, and they’re actually pretty scary.

That’s why when it comes to the subject of BYOD, as is the case in so many other areas of business ownership, careful cost-benefit analysis is the absolute key to successful implementation. As long as SMBOs can be made aware of the potential downsides enough that they can take reasonable steps earlier rather than later to minimize any potential risks, they should be just fine.

Click here on the The Mobility Edge: CDW’s 2012 Small Business Mobility Report for more information and insight on the topic of BYOD now!

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