A bring your own device (BYOD) strategy for enterprises can be

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a winner for both users and administrators. But switching to BYOD requires more than throwing open the barn doors and letting employees buy whatever device they want. IT still needs to manage and secure the data on mobile devices, whether they are owned by an enterprise or user.

BYOD brings flexibility to enterprise mobility

In more traditional mobility deployments, the enterprise itself was responsible for all facets of the mobile device, including purchasing, its associated voice and data plans, as well as managing the device assets. The IT department would track what device was assigned to each user and would be the clearinghouse for any device replacement or upgrades. Essentially, IT treated mobile devices in the same way that it did other IT assets like laptops or printers.

Consumers, however, are embracing smartphones and tablet devices as ways to stay personally connected. This has led to a two-device dilemma, with many enterprise users carrying both a personal and work device with them. The bring your own device movement is partially a solution for this dilemma, enabling users to carry a single device for both business and personal use.

Define financial liability for BYOD

Enterprises may see users who are willing to pay for their own mobile devices and services as a cost savings boon, but careful planning and thought should go into integrating BYOD into a mobile strategy. In fact, any corporate mobility policy, whether it includes BYOD provisions or not, should delineate corporate and individual responsibility for mobile devices.

Many enterprises choose a BYOD strategy that requires users to pick up the tab for the mobile device and voice and data service, while reimbursing employees for a fixed portion of the charges, said Samir Sakpal, industry manager and senior analyst for Frost & Sullivan. This approach is particularly appealing to budget-conscious enterprises, as it offloads most of the wireless telecom expenses to the user.

Other enterprises leverage their existing corporate pricing and pooled minute plans, while allowing mobile users to choose and purchase their own devices. The enterprise still pays the charges, but this approach allows employees to make purchase and upgrade decisions themselves. Enterprises can also continue to leverage telecom expense management (TEM) solutions to manage their monthly wireless costs, while allowing IT to get out of the process of device procurement.

BYOD still requires mobile device management

Shifting users to a BYOD strategy does not absolve IT from responsibility for mobile device management, warned Philippe Winthrop, managing director at the Enterprise Mobility Foundation. “It doesn’t matter who is paying for the mobile device, IT will still have to manage that device as a corporate asset,” said Winthrop. Companies will need tools to support mobile devices, including tools for mobile device management (MDM), mobile security and mobile application management.

Legacy enterprises’ mobility deployments were often homogenous, relying on infrastructure such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) to support a fleet of BlackBerry devices. The BES rolled all of these mobile management functions into a single software platform. Unfortunately, no single platform currently exists for the heterogeneous mobile environment created by a BYOD strategy.

Also, enterprises will likely adopt mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAP) to support native mobile versions of custom enterprise applications. Overall, they will have to adopt a mashup of multiple products to achieve an acceptable level of security and compatibility for a BYOD mobile strategy.

As many large organizations develop their mobile device strategy, they are discovering that the upfront cost savings that a BYOD strategy offers is erased by the costs of managing a heterogeneous mobile deployment. Many companies are rethinking the BYOD approach to mobility by giving users limited choice, Sakpal said. About 20% of the most highly mobile enterprises choose a limited number of platforms to support and let their users choose from that list.

This was first published in July 2011

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