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The Origins of BYOD

The origins of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) lie in the development of mobile devices. Internet connectivity on mobile phones paved the way for “PC in your pocket” functionality, which gave rise to the BlackBerry – the executive mobile phone of choice for much of the 2000s. BlackBerry dominated the mobile market for a while, but its success was limited almost exclusively to a business context.

BYOD represents a significant change both for the IT industry and in the wider business world, revolutionising the way organisations operate and how employees work. While BYOD offers some challenges, it is opening up flexibility and efficiency that far outweighs short-term issues.

Rise of the iPhone

It wasn’t until other smartphones, in the early days a consumer market product, began entering the business market that BYOD took hold. When the iPhone launched in late 2007 it was not an immediate threat to the BlackBerry’s near monopoly in the business world. The iPhone browser was better than the BlackBerry’s, but syncing the device to Exchange was not as seamless, relegating the device at that time to personal use.

As the iPhone became easier to sync with IT networks and Internet connectivity improved, the technology advantage that BlackBerry had took second stage. Other mobile competitors entered the business market, expanding the functionality, capabilities of these devices, which added an array of form factors. Apple introduced the tablet to the consumer marketplace, which, like the iPhone before it, eventually transitioned into the business world.

Growth of Mobile Communications

Adoption of mobile communications is still on the rise with growth projections showing no signs of slowing. In Q3 of 2012 alone, Apple shipped 17 million iPads’, which represents year-over-year growth of 84 percent. By 2015, there will be 7.4 billion mobile devices; according to ABI Research another 1.2 billion smartphones will be added over the next five years.

BYOD Challenges

All of this growth means an increased variety of end user devices. The result is that employees increasingly bring their own devices into the workplace. This presents challenges for IT departments who struggle to address the expanding BYOD dynamic:

Security – Personal devices are more difficult to secure and bring with them vulnerabilities when connected to the network.

Compliance — For organisations that must meet federal or other regulations or standards, such as for healthcare organisations, compliance can be a challenge in the face of a variety of devices operating inside and outside of the firewall.

Management – IT departments are challenged to manage a variety of devices, instead of a standard-issued device that can come preloaded with the necessary software and other necessary native clients.

Devices must be provisioned with the relevant software – antivirus, etc. Every time, there is an organisation-wide update, IT must roll out the updates across all endpoint devices.

Support – BYOD presents tremendous help desk support load; support staff are forced to address a range of  user problems across a variety of endpoint devices.

Staff Resources – Managing all of these devices is time-consuming, stretching the resources of overworked IT departments.

Expenses – The time IT personnel spend provisioning, supporting, updating, ensuring compliance and securing all of these devices represents a significant cost to IT departments today.

Benefits of BYOD

While it should also be noted that BYOD is a policy that presents challenges to be solved with solutions as a practice, BYOD offers some real benefits.

Productivity: The simplicity of using one device opposed to multiple devices is more efficient. Users tend to be more proficient with devices with which they are familiar.

Cost savings.: At the speed that technology evolves, equipping employees with devices can be an expensive proposition. Of course, this is provided an organisation has the right solutions, in order to eliminate the pains associated with provisioning and supporting BYOD.

Flexibility: The ability to work from the office, home or on the road provides an increased level of flexibility that maximises employee output.