BYOD: What SMBs Should Know

All businesses should have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. Even if you’re not comfortable allowing your employees to use their personal devices for work activities, it’s important to articulate your policy, so you don’t run into any issues with these devices down the road.

The BYOD business environment has become extremely common in the modern workforce. More businesses are allowing employees to use their own devices, and most employees expect their employer to have a formal policy in place so they can understand what is and is not allowed. There are many benefits to implementing a BYOD policy for your own business. However, there are a few risks to keep in mind, so you should set clear guidelines and expectations for your employees to follow.

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Benefits of a BYOD policy

Most people use personal computers, tablets, and smartphones outside of work. Allowing your employees to use these devices for work can provide a number of benefits for both you and your employees. 

Reduced IT spend

First and foremost, your overall IT spend will shrink dramatically, so you can prioritize those funds for other business needs. You won’t be liable for replacing or fixing a device that’s broken or lost/stolen, and your IT staff can spend less time troubleshooting employees’ devices. You also won’t need to worry about budgeting for specialized equipment for specific roles. For example, software developers can ensure their own computer has enough RAM to work with large volumes of data and graphic designers can purchase a tablet that will suit their needs for illustration work.

Improved employee satisfaction

Similarly, your team will have more satisfaction with the tools they use to do their jobs. Your employees may feel strongly about the long-standing battle between Mac and PC users, or they may prefer using a Chromebook or Linux device instead. In the same vein, someone on your team may have a bit of a learning curve with adapting to the operating system you’re offering if they’ve spent most of their technical life working with something else. A BYOD policy ensures your team is able to use the equipment they’re most comfortable with if you can’t offer that flexibility yourself.

Better mobility

If mobility is important to you, a BYOD policy will also make it easier and safer for your employees to access company resources from their smartphones or tablets while on the go. This is something your employees may be doing already, but having guidelines established in a formal BYOD policy will ensure they’re taking necessary precautions to protect your business data when doing so. 

Drawbacks of a BYOD policy

A BYOD policy promotes flexibility, mobility, and efficiency for your business’s IT needs, but it can also present some challenges. Although the benefits usually outweigh the risks, it’s important to be aware of the vulnerabilities a BYOD policy can create.

Increased security risks

From a security perspective, allowing your employees to use their own devices means you have less oversight and control over their online activities. If you provide devices for your employees to use, you can block specific websites, restrict downloads from the internet, and take other precautions to prevent hacks, data breaches, and other cybersecurity nightmares. 

A BYOD landscape also makes it more difficult to retain data that may be stored on an employee’s device if they lose it or leave your company. Consider implementing zero trust cybersecurity tools that will let you wipe data from a device remotely so you can be prepared for these worst-case scenarios.

Related: Small Biz Mobile Security Lags Behind BYOD Adoption

Reduced accessibility

If you’re considering a BYOD-only policy, it’s important to keep in mind that not all of your current or future employees may be comfortable with using their personal devices for work activities. They may have concerns about their personal privacy or the responsibility and cost of maintaining their own equipment, or they may simply prefer to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives. Plus, it could create business continuity issues if an employee’s computer breaks and they can’t afford to fix or replace it right away.

For these reasons, it may be best to implement a hybrid BYOD policy with clear expectations for what technology you as an employer will provide and what expectations you have for employees who want to use their own devices.

5 must-have BYOD policy points

It’s important to have a clearly defined BYOD policy in place regardless of whether you want to allow employees to use their personal devices or not. This statement can be as simple as saying employees should only use company-provided devices to access company systems, or it can go into great detail about specific use cases that are or are not allowed. 

If you chose to allow employees to bring their personal devices into your workplace, your BYOD policy should include the following sections at a minimum.

Acceptable uses

Describe what types of work-related activities are allowed on an employee’s personal device. These may include requiring a VPN connection before accessing business systems, or limiting access from mobile devices to email and instant messaging applications.

Supported devices 

You may want to exclude older equipment that may pose more security risks or specific device types or brands that may not be compatible with your business systems.

Company/employee liabilities and expectations

Outline what kinds of devices you are willing to provide and maintain, and what an employee will be expected to provide. 

Security requirements

Specify what security measures your employees should have on their personal devices to protect your business data. These may include strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and cybersecurity applications.

Compliance requirements

Especially if your business deals with data that could be subject to strict privacy laws, you should outline the procedures and requirements for complying with those laws.

BYOD for small businesses

As a small business owner, a BYOD policy can have a tremendous impact on your organization. It can save you money, improve your employees’ overall job satisfaction, and ensure your team is able to safely access their business-critical information from any device anywhere in the world. However, a BYOD policy that’s poorly conceived, defined, or implemented could also spell trouble for your business’s security and inclusivity. Avoid those risks by making sure your policy fits your company’s needs and goals. 

Read next: 10 Things to Know Before Creating BYOD Policy

Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is the editor of Small Business Computing. She is passionate about creating relatable, research-based content that helps small businesses thrive.

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