BYOD model reigns supreme, as corporate devices raise concerns

Businesses prefer implementing a BYOD model because of user demand, the rising cost of data plans and overage fees, and legal reasons. It may not save IT money, however.

Businesses still prefer BYOD over the corporate-owned device model, which isn't gaining traction for a multitude of reasons.

When weighing BYOD versus company-provided devices, businesses find corporate-owned can be less secure because employees find workarounds to use the devices they prefer. There are also costs for data plans, security and management software, and app support that come into play differently for each model. After comparing these pros and cons, most businesses opt for a BYOD strategy, rather than corporate-owned, according to a Gartner report.

"The more you try to control, the harder it is to control," said Michael Mathews, CIO of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. "When a corporate-issued device doesn't do what an employee ... needs it to do, they will use email, thumb drives and whatever else they need to use. You multiply security risks if you force them to use something."

'Side with users over IT'

Only 23% of employees receive corporate-issued smartphones, according to a November report by Gartner.

Oral Roberts follows the BYOD model for staff and students. It's up to IT to support whatever users bring into the environment, Mathews said.

The more you try to control, the harder it is to control.
Michael MathewsCIO of Oral Roberts University

"I will always side with users over IT," he said. "IT is a service organization to make people's lives better, not difficult."

Still, organizations with BYOD programs must make sure those devices are secure and that data follows compliance regulations on the back end. The university locks down its data centers and certain software systems, and staff members use virtual desktops to access sensitive information, so no data is saved on their devices.

Some businesses opt for the corporate-issued model instead, because it's easier to implement controls on devices. Users typically resist this model because, depending on the controls, they may have to carry a personal phone, in addition to a work phone, which can be inconvenient.

But businesses must pay the upfront costs of devices and often encounter hidden fees, such as those for data plans and overages. (Sometimes, businesses will also pay for data plans in BYOD environments, but that is not always the case.)

With the BYOD model, today's enterprise mobility management (EMM) software can deal with even the most sensitive data on users' personal phones, so there isn't a big drop-off in security and ease of management between corporate-owned and BYOD models, said Robby Hill, founder and CEO of HillSouth, an IT consultancy in Florence, S.C.  

"EMM tools are so powerful, it's easy to secure business data in a container separate from personal data," he said.

Additionally, many businesses avoid owning devices out of fear they could become evidence in legal proceedings. If an employee is involved in a nonwork-related court case, and his or her company-owned device is evidence, the business may be liable for that device and have to become involved in a court case it doesn't want any part of, Hill said. Additionally, the court may have access to any corporate information the device has access to, he said.

"We've seen a lot of interest in going to BYOD from a liability perspective," Hill added.

BYOD still brings cost concerns

A BYOD strategy may be less expensive than the corporate-issued model, but that is not always the case, said Jack Gold, principal analyst and founder of J. Gold Associates LLC, a mobile analyst firm in Northborough, Mass.

There is an upfront cost for corporate-issued hardware, but BYOD can bring higher costs when it comes to management and services.

For example, there are many different versions of Android alone, making managing these devices more complex for IT. If a business opts not to support an older operating system that a user has, that user may be forced to update to a newer version or get a different phone. Organizations may also have to pay to customize their business applications to work on the different versions of Android and iOS. If users upgrade to newer versions that their business apps don't yet support, that could halt productivity.

"When complexity goes up, cost goes up," Gold said. "You don't always save a lot of money from BYOD."

With the corporate-owned model, businesses avoid this problem, because they have a more consistent environment.

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