Whether you know it or not, it is likely that at least a few of your employees are using their own personal laptops, tablets and smart phones to work on business data. For small businesses, this may seem like an easy way to increase productivity and control technology costs, but there are risks. If you don't have a comprehensive and enforceable BYOD policy in place, your employees' devices could cost you more than they save.
Larger companies have long known that personal devices and smart business practices do not fit comfortably together. As these devices have become more powerful and ubiquitous, it is time for smaller companies to learn this lesson too. An effective BYOD policy can help you avoid common pitfalls and get the most out of new technologies.
Risks of Not Having a BYOD Policy
Data security is the biggest issue to consider when employees use their own devices. Without standardized policies for the way data is downloaded, saved and protected on employee devices, there is no way to know for sure if it is secure. You risk a serious data breach if one of these devices is hacked, stolen, or simply used irresponsibly.
Cost and support are the other issues you need to keep in mind. You may think that you're saving money by encouraging your employees to use their own devices, but they may actually place a stress on your IT infrastructure that costs you more in the long run. Plus, if there is not a safe and reliable way to provide support for these devices, they can be more trouble than they are worth.
These may seem like minor issues, but companies of all sizes, in all industries, have paid the price for operating without a carefully considered BYOD policy in place.
5 Elements of an Effective BYOD Policy
- Passwords. People often choose simpler passwords for their personal devices. It is crucial that any device used for business has a password with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and has a built in lock-out feature.
- Remote Data Deletion. If one of these devices is ever lost or stolen, it is important that all stored data be deleted remotely. As part of your BYOD policy, you need to have a program in place that facilitates mobile wiping, an agreement worked out with your employees and a plan of action if a device ever goes missing.
- App Use Policies. Mobile apps can create security risks and place an unnecessary strain on your network. They can also distract employees during the workday. If they are going to bring their own devices with them, you need to determine how your employees will be allowed to use apps.
- Device Monitoring. Employers should have the ability to monitor varying amounts of activity on mobile devices. If you plan to use this feature, you need to make sure your employees are aware of it.
- Formal Agreements. Every element of your BYOD policy must be incorporated into a formal document that employees are required to sign. This can help you avoid thorny legal issues and get everyone in the company on the same page.
If you do not have any experience drafting technology use policies, or you simply want to be thorough when it comes to mobile devices, seek out the help of your IT service provider. They can educate you about threats and best practices, help you write the document and make sure that it is implemented company-wide. To learn more about using IT to help you small business, consult our white paper “The Ultimate Small Business Guide to IT Outsourcing.”