Opinion

BYOD is good for business, but don't forget security and standardisation

6 min read

30 June 2015

Seagate's Sof Socratous discusses the impact of bring your own device (BYOD), how it's transforming the way SMEs store and access data at work, and the challenges a BYOD policy can bring.

In 2013, the world generated a whopping 3.5 zettabytes of digital data (that’s 35 with 20 zeros after it). By 2020, experts predict the world will generate 44 zettabytes of data annually: that’s as much data as one million photographs or 1500 HD movies for every single person on the planet. 

BYOD may not be the only factor driving this big data revolution, but it’s clear that it has helped usher in a fundamental shift in the way we store and access data at work – from traditional local storage on desktops, notebooks or servers, to cloud storage available whenever, wherever and however it’s needed. 

What this means for big data is significant. As businesses welcome new, employee-owned devices into their world, data stored on company servers or cloud storage has grown at an incredible rate, as personal data is downloaded and stored by default. From the world’s largest conglomerate to the coffee shop down the road, any business that implements a BYOD policy is contributing to the growth of big data.

Bound by budgetary and IT constraints, small businesses were quicker than most to realise the potential value of BYOD and have been encouraging their employees to use their personal devices to check email and manage work on the go for years. But how can SME owners manage the sudden influx of information they need to store and secure? How can they ensure they are using the most efficient, cost-effective, and forward-looking policies? After all, for all the praise the BYOD revolution has had in terms of cost-efficiency and productivity, it is not without its challenges. 

At Seagate, we’ve put together a few tips to help small businesses that are considering implementing a BYOD policy to be sure they address and anticipate those challenges – and take full advantage of the exciting opportunities BYOD can offer when it’s done right. 

Firstly, should your small business even bother with a formal BYOD policy? This may depend on your particular company but if an employee’s personal device is accessing your corporate network and being used to conduct corporate business, then your SME needs at least a basic BYOD framework that covers device security, network security and related policies.

Next, there’s the issue of security. Just because your employees are playing Angry Birds on their smartwatches and phones, and using their tablets to work from home, it doesn’t mean that they’re knowledgeable about IT security, so even basic mobile security education should be part of your move to BYOD. Be sure your employees understand the need to protect their data, and what they can do to ensure that protection is in place. 

Remember that big data also presents an opportunity to analyse your business in ways that can uncover trends and patterns, and ultimately contribute to the growth of the business. In response, IT departments within SMEs need to be prepared, and must arm themselves with a set of a clearly defined BYOD rules and guidelines for data access via personal devices. After all, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. 

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Standardising a company’s computing infrastructure is also a vital step. It’s crucial for SMEs to put in place one consistent and effective software and data management systems. This may seem obvious on the surface level, but this underpins efficient mobile management. SMEs should also think about a “choose your own device” (CYOD) approach. Rather than allowing employees to bring in any device, companies could provide a pre-approved list of devices from which employees can choose. It can help put your business back in the driver’s seat – ensuring lock-tight security for your data and the right system to analyse and manage the data centrally.

No matter what policy your company adopts on mobile devices, it is an unquestionable fact that BYOD and with it, big data, is here to stay. Small business owners need to consider the implications for their business and tackle it by thinking strategically. This means considerations need to be made not only about their storage needs today, but also the devices that are accessing business critical data tomorrow. 

Gartner has predicted that in two years, half of all employees will be required to supply their own work device. Responsibility will no longer lie with the employer. Instead, the responsibility of work technology will be placed firmly in the hands of employees. Big data isn’t going anywhere, but BYOD policy will inevitably be evolving and SMEs are best placed to keep up with the crowd. 

Image: Shutterstock

Sof Socratous is VP of EMEA, Seagate.