For many people in today’s increasingly digital landscape, “going to work” has become synonymous with “going to the living room.” Remote work has grown a staggering 159% over the past 12 years. In the face of a global talent shortage, IT industry leaders have been forced to expand their talent pool to find qualified people with specialized skill sets, and sometimes those people are a country or two away. Luckily, many of today’s jobs can be done remotely, and cloud technologies make it possible for business teams to collaborate on projects from miles away without missing a beat.
The rapid rise of remote work may not be possible without the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. In part to accommodate the increasing number of remote workers, many employers allow employees to use their personal digital devices—namely smartphones, laptops, and tablets—to access the company network. Despite the benefits of BYOD in the workplace, it’s not without its faults. Here’s what managed services providers (MSPs) need to know about the BYOD trend and how to manage the challenges that come with it.
What are the advantages of a BYOD environment?
Frankly, one of the reasons BYOD is so popular is because employees love it. There has been a recent paradigm shift away from working solely within the confines of an office, and BYOD is a big part of that. For instance, if you’re too sick to manage your regular commute but not sick enough to warrant taking time off work, remote work is a good option. If you’re more productive when you’re free to move around and change your scenery, BYOD can accommodate you.
Ultimately, BYOD fosters flexibility, which can in turn boost company morale and increase productivity. In fact, research shows that using portable devices for work can save employees up to 58 minutes per day, while increasing productivity by 34%.
From an organizational standpoint, BYOD can also cut into an organization’s overhead hardware costs by relieving some of the responsibility of paying for equipment and services. With BYOD, it’s up to employees to maintain their own devices, which has the added benefit of granting the organization access to the latest technology.
What are the disadvantages of BYOD?
Even so, the BYOD trend also comes with its fair share of challenges, caveats, and concerns. Here are the top seven BYOD challenges MSPs should be aware of:
- BYOD challenge #1: a wide variety of security risks
BYOD security challenges and portable device security challenges may appear to be the same, but the former is much more serious because a company’s sensitive information may be co-mingled with an employee’s information. A portable device is typically associated with a device that is allowed to connect to the network, but isn’t governed by the organization. When we consider that the user is typically the weakest link in endpoint security, trusting your employees to handle sensitive data on their personal devices can be extremely risky. Without strict regulations on BYOD devices, bad actors can easily use a compromised phone to gain access to your organization’s network. In addition, confidential information can easily fall into the wrong hands if your employee’s phone is lost or stolen. Unfortunately, these examples only scratch the surface of what can happen when employees don’t exercise BYOD security best practices.
- BYOD challenge #2: BYOD compliance issues
Certain industries—like healthcare for example—have very strict laws about how information is accessed, used, and distributed. A company’s compliance responsibilities extend to employees’ personal devices used for work, even though they aren’t part and parcel of the company, because they still come into contact with the company’s data. The inherent security risks associated with BYOD and the increased likelihood that employees might share confidential information with someone outside of the corporate network make compliance hard to enforce.
- BYOD challenge #3: issues with data removal and retrieval
Let’s imagine that an employee is fired. If they previously accessed or stored sensitive information on their personal devices, they might take that information with them as they walk out the door. To reduce security risks, the employer must race to remove company data from the ex-employee’s laptop or phone. To prevent this mad dash, all employees should sign an agreement regarding the use of company data upon employment—but there are still no guarantees they’ll keep up their end of the bargain.
- BYOD challenge #4: loss of control over hardware
It’s true that BYOD reduces hardware costs and takes some of the burden away from IT teams when it comes to maintaining employees’ devices—but that advantage comes with one very large disadvantage. Allowing employees to use their personal devices means that the IT department can’t control what apps are used, what files are downloaded, how often vulnerabilities are patched, or what security measures are taken on people’s personal devices. It’s much harder to prevent and mitigate data breaches when devices are not under IT department jurisdiction.
- BYOD challenge #5: vulnerability to malware
Cybersecurity experts agree that malware attacks are one of the fastest-growing cybersecurity threats out there. It’s hard enough for businesses with full-fledged IT departments to stay on top of these viruses, but it’s even more difficult in a BYOD environment. Personal devices are more susceptible to malware because security measures for them aren’t as strict, particularly devices that are “jail-broken” or feature additional software the device wasn’t built for. One well-timed malware attack could instantly jeopardize the confidentiality of sensitive data.
- BYOD challenge #6: decreased productivity
This challenge is somewhat contradictory—as mentioned earlier, many argue that the BYOD trend increases productivity because portable devices mean that employees can work more flexibly. However, workplace distractions still exist. On company-provided computers, system administrators can block specific websites or apps to keep employees focused, but the same cannot be said for personal devices. Although BYOD may enable productivity in some ways, it’s also very possible for it to introduce new interruptions to a work environment.
- BYOD challenge #7: inefficient password management
Passwords are an organization’s first line of defense against data breaches and other cybersecurity threats. BYOD makes it harder to ensure that employees are using strong passwords, and many don’t change their passwords as frequently as they should. Small BYOD challenges like this can snowball into large network security concerns.
Despite all the aforementioned BYOD challenges, it’s difficult for organizations to truly eliminate BYOD in today’s digital age—especially while remaining competitive and attracting top talent. As an MSP, part of your job is supporting the needs of your customers and enabling more secure BYOD policies wherever possible. The key is to be smart about how you implement new customer BYOD policies, and having the right tools at your disposal goes a long way in managing BYOD challenges.
N-able™ Passportal is an important addition to any BYOD security policy. Passportal is a cloud-based, automated password management solution that helps MSPs regulate password access to their customers’ devices, networks, applications, and confidential files. This tool is built specifically for MSPs, meaning you’ll get everything necessary for gapless password management from one intuitive tool.
Nip BYOD compliance issues in the bud with the Passportal reporting and auditing features, plus a systematic and simplified client documentation process. Password change automation makes it easier for MSPs to change passwords across an entire fleet of devices, no matter where they are. For an additional layer of security, passwords and credentials are stored in an encrypted vault behind multifactor authentication and role-based permissions.
For more information on BYOD policies and implementation, read through our related blog posts.