In the last few years, technology and connectivity hav been making the line between personal and professional life more and more blur, like never before. Often this distinction is clear and precisely dictated by working days and hours, but more and more people, not just professionals, find themselves to do business activities (email, calls, documents, etc.) in places different from the office.
Working from home requires tools that allows to access the business’ resources while granting a minimum level of security and reliability. Cellphones, notebooks and tablets can connect to the networks in a secure way, send and receive emails, produce documents. It’s fundamental to always at hand devices that can access to the environment and to the resources of the company. In order to grant a minimum level of security, companies essentially have two approaches: allow the employee, or the partner, to use his own devices, or directly provide him them, as it used to happen in the past
The quick evolution of informatics and technologies, together with the crisis that mined financial mines, has brought to an tendency inversion. We talk about users that prefer to work with their own devices as they’re often more advanced and modern than those the companies would provide. A specific English term to describe this trend exists: “consumerization”, the closing gap between the professional and the consumer world.
Let’s try to analyze a few data: according to a survey of the Innovation Group made in 2013, out of 70 medium to big companies more than 80% allows, or is planning to adopt, a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy; this option was previously limited to higher level employees, like managers and executives.
According to Gartner, BYOD and Cloud are the future of IT, it is therefore appropriate for companies and professionals to be prepared and understand the advantages and limits those solutions will offer in the near future.
The analysis on business mobility performed by VMware (june 2015) is interesting as well: on a record of 1000 companies all over the world, even though only 14% has already moved one or more business processes to the mobile model, a noteworthy 61% is going to adopt this policy in the short period. In the specific case of BYOD applied to the single employee the spread is even greater: 66% of the companies analyzed already ask their employees to utilize personal devices.
Pros and cons of BYOD
Let’s start by analyzing the pros, the advantages. The employee owns a device that has choosen according to personal preferences and needs. This approach consciously leads him to follow the business of the company outside of the working hours. The company only has to provide him with the security and the remote connection to the internal resources, while the costs related to ownership, hardware update and maintenance are at the expense of the worker, which is an evident advantage in economic terms. However, the list of the potential cons, the limits, is way wider. The first consideration is about multiplatform systems: because the device choice is not limited by policies of the company, mail services, VPNs and applications must be supplied for the greatest number of terminals possible. In the specific case of the mobile world, that means supporting to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS is required. We can cite some solutions to that: for instance it’s possible to grant VPN connections with IPSEC and OpenVPN are compatible with both platforms.
At this point it’s inevitable to deal with the considerable problem of connectivity. If on a company basis it’s easy, albeit expensive, to implement a complete wireless coverage of the working areas, the same is not true anymore when the communication mean becomes the Internet. In many areas of our country the residential connectivity is still ADSL based with speed in the order of tens of Mbps in download and less than 1 Mbps in upload. That’s a remarkable bottleneck. The mobile status is slightly better: the recent 3G and 4G solutions provide greater speeds. Speaking about numbers, in April 2015 only 22.3% of the italian population had access to ultrawide bandwidth (optical fibre with download speed equal or greater than 30Mbps), while 4G coverage varies from 33% of 3Italia to 88% of Vodafone (July 2015); in this case the mean download speed is in the order of 10-15Mbps with peaks of more than 40Mbps. Numbers and statistics tend to cite only download speeds, but in an off-premises productivity context the main limit is usually the upload speed of the user to the company. In this situation mobile solutions provide the best results, too.
Once the problems regarding the user-company connection are sorted out, those regarding data security have to be faced. Safeguarding information is difficult even when they are kept inside the walls of the company, and saving documents, emails, contacts and sensible data on
personal devices exposes the company to even greater risks. Losing the devices and data leaks are the first to be considered, even the damage of the whole infrastructure of the company is possible in case of infected machine or used as Trojan horses.
Many of these risks already existed when the employees were using the company’s terminals, with the advent of BYOD the main difference is that the managements is left to the single user, it’s not the case anymore of computers and mobile devices prepared and controlled by the IT staff with dedicates Operative Systems and specific programs. Some solutions can be implemented to achieve the goal of security but leaving the owner to use the device as whatever he likes. The installation of a professional antivirus program is fundamental as much as the check of hardware and software properties of the new device must suit the requirements of the company (for instance, the OS version and an hardware adequate for the company applications). In addition to that, the installation of software apps for data protection, device block and even remote wipe in case of loss or theft must be considered.