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BYOD vs. COPE: There's no easy answer

With all the personal devices employees want to bring to work these days, it seems like a no-brainer that BYOD would be the way to go. But plenty of companies still find it easier and more cost-effective to provide corporate-owned and managed devices to employees.

The pros and cons of bring your own device (BYOD) and company-owned, personally-enabled (COPE) mobile programs are of constant debate. A session here at Citrix Synergy took BYOD and COPE into the ring to see which one comes out the winner – and in the end, there was no clear outcome.

In fact, the financial impact of supporting BYOD and reimbursing employees for those devices is about the same cost as having company-owned smartphones passed out and fully managed by IT, according to the 2014 Gartner report “Understand the Financial Impacts of BYOD” cited in the session.

“There’s a misconception out there that employees are raring to use their own devices for work,” said Citrix architect Matt Brooks.

COPE programs can be especially cost-effective because oftentimes organizations are buying hundreds or even thousands of devices, which makes for solid economies of scale if IT can get a discount for buying in bulk.

For some front-line workers that require a couple specific enterprise apps, a corporate-owned device might be enough. But more mobile, traveling employees might want the device they’re most familiar with.

One of the challenges with COPE is that it can be hard for IT to keep up with the latest and greatest devices out there. With corporate-owned devices, you constantly have to test, deploy and update new ones.

There are a few other key issues IT has to consider for both BYOD and COPE programs.

First off, IT needs to keep users in compliance with its management and security policies. For instance, IT has to come up with ways to manage OSes and set minimums for the ability of apps to run on certain OSes, thereby forcing users to do updates on a more regular basis, Brooks said.

“Users like to update their apps; they don’t like to update their OS,” he said.

And whether IT likes it or not, those users will be calling with questions. Mobile-related help desk calls increased by 10% from 2013 to 2014, according to Gartner data cited in the session.

IT should also consider the back-end infrastructure and networking needed to support BYOD or COPE devices, as there are plenty of operational costs beyond the hardware and software.

But at the end of the day, you don’t need to choose just one. IT can have a win-win by deploying some corporate-owned devices to the employees that need it, and allow others to bring their own.