Has BYOD lost its appeal?

Remember when BYOD was the buzzword du jour for businesses? It represented a huge shift in the way many enterprises saw mobile, and represented a new era of technological freedom. And for the companies, it also took the cost out of buying new devices for their workers. It was a win-win scenario.

But looking at the wider picture that incorporates risk and extra costs, have we now fallen out of love with BYOD in favour of other approaches? And are the alternatives a more attractive route for those looking to provide a solution that is both secure and flexible?

The first thing to look at is the reason for this debate in the first place. Company laptops and mobile phones aren't a new concept. You could go back to the nineties to see them being dished out to execs. The difference now is the fact that they have gone from background accessories to main stage players. And in the world of digital transformation, it will be ever thus.

IDC forecasts that 75 per cent of Europe’s workforce will be mobile by 2018. Work devices are no longer machines for spreadsheets and calls alone. They now aid collaboration, management, planning and creative tasks. Not just that, they also feature in the personal lives of employees as well. And it's that crossover between corporate and personal usage that made BYOD such a runaway success.

But BYOD isn't for everybody. Some are already considering their options after rushing out BYOD policies that weren't right for them. IT managers have become distraught dealing with shadow IT, unfamiliar platforms and numerous devices. At the same time, many felt like they were losing control of company data. This was especially true with those that gave free rein to employees through unmanaged BYOD solutions. Something had to give. Enter Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) mobile policies. Here, the device is the property of the enterprise but the employee is allowed to use it for personal activities. For many, it's a happy medium for providing mobility for workers.    

Some see BYOD as a risk because of security concerns but employees hate being told to take what they're given when it comes to IT provisioning. COPE falls between the two. The problem is that companies that are running a tight ship are hesitant in paying for new devices for an approach they're unsure of. COPE has to be the perfect fit to justify the upfront investment. The truth is that there isn't a one size fits all solution, which is why there's currently a BYOD or COPE discussion taking place. The devil is in the detail and the make or break area is with the management solutions that accompany either route.

BYOD can leave IT departments with a complex mix of applications, services and devices to control, making compliance and data security a major challenge.  COPE looks to overcome these hurdles by making it easier for IT to secure and monitor devices because they are enterprise owned.

With BYOD, the IT department has to create a container or dual persona technology, made up of one part for IT to manage and the other part for the user to manage. COPE, however, allows the IT department to build space on a fully managed device for the employee’s personal use, which in essence is simpler and easier to manage. But there are privacy issues to contend with. The COPE model is built on trust as employees need to be reassured that their personal data is not being snooped on.

Whether a company selects BYOD or COPE, the Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) or Mobile Device Management (MDM) must look at the bigger picture. For instance, does the management platform support IoT and Cloud connectivity? These are key growth areas for enterprise IT. Also, will the management platform be delivered by the cloud or on-premise?

There are many reasons why a business might choose an on-premise solution over a service offered through the cloud (or even a hybrid option). On-premise often makes more sense for businesses that want to be in complete control of their own IT infrastructure, however the cloud allows greater opportunity to scale up and only pay for capacity used. In either case, there are also issues of customisation to consider. This will make sure the solution suits the legislative requirements and corporate level preferences for your implementation.

Have we fallen out with BYOD? Not completely, no. What has happened is that businesses are now more aware of the fact that there are options. BYOD creates a heterogeneous environment of devices that can be difficult to manage. COPE can be an alternative as long as the security features can be implemented across all the devices in the programme. Although BYOD can be managed and secured via various EMMs, BYOD is not a route option for enterprises with a very low risk threshold.

It would be foolhardy to immediately rule out either BYOD or COPE without considering the benefits of each. The important aspect to consider though is that long-term costs should be considered as well as quick wins for the annual budget.

Stefaan Van Aken, Mobility Sales and Solutions Partner, Orange Business Services

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