Is BYOD really the best choice for remote working?

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Nearly a third, (32%) of the UK workforce is working remotely, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics

With so many businesses going remote and changing their working practices for the future, most are relying on mobile technology to hold things together.

Employees need up-to-date mobile devices with the right applications and protections to do their work from home, or from other locations outside the office.

In the UK, around 45% of businesses use the Bring Your Own Device model, which allows employees to use their personal mobile devices for work.

Though it’s popular, is BYOD really the best method for managing mobile devices in remote working?

Let’s look at the problems businesses might face with BYOD and what the alternatives are.

What are the issues with Bring Your Own Device?

Bring Your Own Device is attractive to businesses because they don’t have to pay for the handset or data plan, and if they subsidise employee costs it’s still cheaper than paying outright.

It’s also attractive to employees because they already know how to use their own smartphone and are using the operating system they prefer, and they don’t have to carry a second device.

That said, BYOD brings quite a few problems for businesses when it comes to compatibility, security and privacy.

Data leakage is a major concern for 63% of businesses, according to a 2020 report on BYOD practices by Bitglass.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of the businesses they surveyed either had no malware protection at all, or relied on employees to install it on their devices themselves.

A further 24% of businesses didn’t secure emails on employees’ personal devices, opening them up to unauthorised sharing and downloading.

Some businesses use mobile device management software to control access to sensitive data, but 38% of employees are resistant to having this on their personal devices due to privacy concerns.

This push-and-pull in trying to navigate legal issues and make sure workers are keeping up with their security responsibilities can strain employer-employee relationships, and potentially even have a negative effect on their productivity.

Businesses need to consider whether BYOD is actually the most worthwhile strategy for them, or whether there’s a better way to work remotely and safely.

Are business phones a better option than BYOD?

The alternative to letting employees use their own devices for work is providing business devices for them.

There are several ways to do this that allow varying degrees of control for the employee:

  • Company Owned, Business Only (COBO) – when the business owns and chooses the device, and employees can only use it for work purposes
  • Company Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) – when the company owns and chooses the device, but allows employees to also use it as their personal phone
  • Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) – when employees choose the device they want to use and the business buys it, although this is less common

In all of these cases, the business has ultimate control over the data on the device and can manage everything remotely with an enterprise mobility management platform. 

There are more options available to reach a compromise between employers and employees about which device they have to use for work and the levels of personal use allowed on the work device.

Businesses can set access requirements and push automatic security updates remotely to all employee devices so their security is always up to date, without having to rely on employees who might forget to install updates.

It’s a lot easier for businesses to keep on top of the inventory of mobile devices accessing their network and enforce policy compliance if they get to choose limited types of hardware and operating systems to work with.

Compare that to the hassle of having to manage dozens of different devices with varying operating systems, and you can see why business-issued phones make remote work more streamlined than people might initially think.

With 46% of UK businesses falling victim to cyber attacks, now is not the time for remote workers to relax about security measures.

The best way to make sure you have more control over all the mobile devices used in your business is to provide business phones with the appropriate apps and level of security to the employees who need them.