As user privacy and MDM become more incompatible – the new guide to BYOD vs company devices

Since the release of the first smartphone in 2007, smart devices have changed the way we communicate, live, work and do business. While greater connectivity has productivity and communication benefits, it also presents new challenges, mostly around how businesses can best manage a fleet of remote devices, and which mobile device management (MDM) solution to choose based on their remote device fleet choice.

Currently, there are two avenues businesses can take to integrate smartphones and devices into their operations: company-issued devices, or BYOD, known as bring your own device.

BYOD within small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) is not a new concept, having originally appeared pre-smartphone in business around 2004. However, since that time, the instances of BYOD for employees has increased exponentially, made more cogent by the use of freelance specialists and market saturation of new mobile devices, like smartphones, tablets and laptops.

On the other hand, company-issued devices have experienced a recent upswing in response to the increasing refusal by employees to have MDM software installed on their devices, citing fears around companies being able to view personal information, such as messages and photos.

So which choice is best for your business? To assist in making the right choice, we’ve explored security, costs and privacy factors to take into consideration:

Security

Whether it’s customers’ personal data, or confidential company information, many businesses operate using sensitive information in one form or another. A key consideration in selecting whether to deploy company-issued devices or BYOD is security. Companies need to be able to control the information they let employees access on devices, and remotely wipe devices if that information is compromised or if an employee is terminated. Furthermore, businesses need to be able to ensure that sensitive data isn’t being sent via personal email or other channels by mistake.

For company-issued devices, security is relatively simple. By utilizing the right MDM solution, devices can be locked, wiped, or tracked in case of lost devices or employee termination. Certain functions can also be blocked - like social media use and other similar apps. For BYODs, this is a little more intricate. Because the device is owned by the employee, and it’s being used for both work and personal activities, the employer needs the employee to opt-in to their chosen MDM solution.

This comes with concerns for the employee - is their personal use being tracked? Their location? On the other hand, concerns for the employer might include: are the employees using other methods - screenshots - to capture the information outside the scope of their chosen MDM solution? While these concerns can be navigated with the right MDM solution, they remain a concern for many business owners and employees.

To choose the right solution, businesses need to take their required level of confidentiality into consideration. For businesses like chip manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies who rely on their technologies and intellectual property to stay competitive, or for businesses who operate in personal information, like couriers and government agencies, company-issued devices may be the best choice. For companies who don’t operate in this type of information, like tradespeople or traditional retailers, BYOD may be better suited, and better value in terms of cost.

Cost

Every business is mindful of their bottom line, and no business owner wants to pay a premium for a function or tool they don’t actually need. In terms of time and cost outlay for a business, BYOD is a clear frontrunner, enabling businesses to save up to $3,217 per device, not taking into account the need for employers to reimburse employees for using their personal device at work. The aforementioned security risks also need to be taken into account, which require extra investment in the right MDM solution to enforce privacy policies.

While company-issued devices have a higher upfront cost, they come with perks like total control for the employer, heightened security, and potential savings if ordered in bulk. However, company-issued devices can rapidly become outdated, so companies who are interested in deploying their own devices need to be mindful of the continual investment in keeping their devices up-to-date.

Employee privacy

BYOD comes with a myriad of privacy concerns for employees. These concerns are specifically around whether their employer has the ability - or the right - to snoop into their private, personal correspondence, or see what they are browsing on the internet.

While it’s commonly understood businesses aren’t all that interested in what employees are doing in their spare time, there are still some factors business-owners need to take into consideration when selecting their MDM solution and device policies, including: litigation - if the company comes under legal investigation, personal employee BYODs are subject to investigation discovery requests; tracking - as companies have the ability to track employees through GPS, even when they’re not on the clock; and, personal data loss, where in the case of a perceived security breach, a BYOD may be completely wiped of both business and personal data.

For company-issued devices, on the other hand, administrators already have a high level of control through their MDM in terms of privacy and the ability to remotely lock, wipe and track devices. There’s also no concern on the employee’s end that private information - a not-safe-for-work (NSFW) Facebook post, for instance - will accidentally be caught by their MDM solution, because the device is only being used for business activities. Furthermore, when an employee is done with work for the day, they can turn the device off and avoid feeling as if they’re under GPS surveillance.

While both company-issued and BYOD devices are here to stay in the workforce, the benefits and drawbacks of each make the decision of which option to choose a subjective one. Business owners need to do their due diligence and take the time to research, assess, and find a solution that works best for their business type. Regardless of whether a business chooses to go with company-issued or BYOD, one thing is for certain: business owners need to invest in an MDM solution that works best for their choice.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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