The “Bring Your Own Device” Era
In the modern business world, carrying more than one device is most often a factor of available applications, device capabilities, or personal preferences rather than a solid-walled barrier between work and play life. A “bring your own device” (BYOD) landscape exists because, over the last decade, the line has increasingly blurred between “business” and “personal” technology usage. BYOD may be defined as a business policy allowing employees to bring personally owned mobile devices to their places of work and use these devices to access privileged company resources such as e-mail, file servers and databases, as well as their own personal applications and data. Understandably, a BYOD world creates some challenges for business owners. Without formal acts of rebellion or revolt, the professional masses have forever reformed the landscape of corporate IT by simply using the available technology that makes sense to them—by bringing their own personal devices into the professional setting.
This phenomenon is often referred to as IT “Prosumerization” — a cute term that cleverly blends “professional” and “consumer” into a tight, one-word package that is largely responsible for the graying of traditional IT managers’ roles across the globe. Organizations are confronted by increasing numbers of individuals carrying their own smartphones in addition to company devices. Managers find employees wishing (or demanding) that they be relieved of the burden of carrying two devices by combining the roles of both into one and sharing the cost.
It isn’t hard to envision the economic benefit to both parties if the costs of hardware and service are shared, but it’s rarely that simple. The costs of supporting a user carrying a smartphone are increasing as costs for the latest hardware and services alike are on the rise. Many organizations are reevaluating which segments of their workforce have a founded business case for carrying a fully subsidized device and whether or not to offer a BYOD alternative.
Any device used in the normal course of business connects to business networks and can access or create sensitive company data becomes a potential liability. The business is then faced with the conundrum of how to manage, protect and patrol those devices. Just as important as the proliferation of Prosumer devices is the rapid adoption of remote storage solutions over device-based, local data storage. The days of the local hard drives are numbered as more consumers require “anywhere, anytime” access to content.
A common question is what role cloud storage plays in the future of technology. It would be easier to explain how the two are not related, since cloud services and emerging technologies are evolving in the same techno-system, each influencing the over other. In our present phase of technolution, the concepts behind Prosumer devices and the cloud as a content/data silo fit well hand-in-hand.
When you throw consumer devices and the cloud in the business data blender, the result is a completely new set of game rules where the historical gatekeepers of the data mines need to be revisited, revised, adapted, and, perhaps, thrown away for a new set of rules, procedures and mechanisms. It’s remarkable to be a part of a world where devices and applications are no longer the key bottlenecks to when, where, and how data is created and consumed.
The reality is most companies won’t be able to standardize a single mobile device platform. While workers are accustomed to using their own personal devices, and switching back and forth from a company-provided device to their own, this process can become very time-consuming and counter-productive. Beyond the actual device, there are the issues of deciding which features should be supported on what devices and how. BYOD users must be able to add applications to their devices to conform to company protocols and standards. With so many disparate devices, if some applications are not available on certain platforms or operating systems, then it falls on the user to discover the issue, research the solution, and report the problem.
In the foreseeable future, it is quite possible that mission and business critical functionality will remain within the strictly protected confines that are currently in place to ensure that sensitive data is propagated only through properly sanctioned, monitored and controlled channels. BYOD users may just have to accept this and realize the benefit and the productivity of fully sanctioned accessibility to certain features may be sacrificed by their choice to use their own devices. With the growth of businesses using cloud storage technologies, though, expect the BYOD world to be ever-evolving.
By Brad Robertson
Brad is the CEO of CX, which provides cloud storage solutions to businesses and individuals. Robertson is a seasoned technical executive and entrepreneur who has been involved in Internet start-ups for two decades and now oversees the creative and technical teams at CX. CX for Business provides collaborative online storage features for small-to-medium businesses.