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What's the point of your BYOD program?

Colin Steele

LAS VEGAS -- The desire to use employee-owned smartphones and tablets for work shouldn't take priority over achieving other business goals.

That was the message from several speakers and attendees here at this week's Interop conference, where the pros and cons

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of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend were a hot topic.

All the buzz around BYOD can make it seem like a necessity, but that's not always the case. Organizations often embrace BYOD to respond to user demand without considering how -- or even if -- it will help their business, said Gib Sorebo, chief cybersecurity technologist at SAIC, a Tysons Corner, Va.-based defense contractor.

"BYOD is a big challenge area, and I encourage people to move into this area cautiously, because there are a lot of pitfalls," Sorebo said. "There are some places where BYOD doesn't make sense at all."

In general, BYOD means employees use their own mobile devices to access corporate data and applications. More specifically, it requires organizations to implement formal BYOD programs and policies.

But how should companies deploy a BYOD program? And, more importantly, why should they? Those are questions IT professionals and business leaders must ask themselves before going down the BYOD road.

"You would really want to know what the end result is," said Phil Komarny, chief information officer at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa.

Many companies interested in BYOD haven't considered that, according to Tony Kueh, a vice president in SAP's mobile division. Customers ask about doing BYOD as part of a rollout of SAP's mobile enterprise applications, but they eventually decide to issue company-owned devices instead. The main reason is because they don't want corporate financial information and other sensitive data on personal devices, Kueh said.

"The risk and reward is just not worth it," he added.

BYOD management challenges

Technologies such as mobile application management exist to address security concerns around corporate data on personal devices, but some organizations prefer to have a greater level of control. Technologies that do that, such as mobile device management, aren't always realistic in a BYOD setting, however.

"When it's on that person's device, you have a lot less control over it and a lot less say," Sorebo said.

But installing MDM on personal devices is possible -- if IT is willing to deal with a little blowback from employees.

When Dowling Aaron Inc., a law firm in Fresno, Calif., deployed AirWatch's MDM product to protect the corporate data stored on its attorneys' phones, IT Director Darin Adcock said he had to reassure the users that the firm wasn't tracking their locations or reading their text messages.

"I did get the 'Big Brother is watching' comments," he said.


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