Are the rewards of BYOD worth the trouble?


If there was a buzzword-of-the-year contest, BYOD, or bring your own device, would probably win hands down. Talked about by CIOs and managers, as well as by fellow writers covering the technology beat, BYOD seems to have taken the enterprise and SMBs by storm. And we've all seen the effects of BYOD by now: colleagues coming to the office armed with the latest smartphones, tablets, e-readers and even ultraportable laptops.

As an increasing number of personal devices start materializing within the corporate office, workers are also clamoring to access network resources and systems from their beloved gadgets. And aren't we familiar with the issues of a BYOD-ridden environment that is not kept in check by proper controls and security measures?

Almost like a mantra, security managers and network administrators are chanting doomsday messages of data leakage and security breaches resulting from misplaced or stolen devices. Regardless of what they think, it seems increasingly evident that BYOD is here to stay, even as the IT department scrambles to beef up the Wi-Fi network to accommodate the tablets and smartphones now jostling for wireless bandwidth--though some have yet to recover from the previous upgrade to handle the transition to work-issued laptops.

I came across a report by Tom Kaneshige of CIO magazine who asked whether BYOD workers are more productive. While the article goes on to talk about metrics for measuring BYOD performance gains, it did get me thinking about the prevailing arguments for the popularity of the BYOD phenomenon.

On one hand, workers argue that being able to use their own gear makes them eminently more efficient and productive. See, they can now reply to emails even when visiting the, um, washroom. Or how about this: They can immediately check up on the latest inventory status when making service calls--without having to head back to the office.

The counter on the IT side, though, is that it is simply too costly to properly manage and secure the smorgasbord of BYOD devices: the multiple generations of Android devices, the infinitely jailbreak-able iOS, fringe devices like RIM's (NASDAQ: RIMM) PlayBook tablet and Windows Phone 7 smartphones and, of course, the upcoming Windows 8 for ARM (devices that are expected to land in October.

As someone who constantly reviews new gadgets, uses loads of gadgets in a typical day and, yes, has worked for a number of years as an IT professional--what is my take on the entire BYOD affair? Well, I personally feel that BYOD will probably benefit executives and professionals who are constantly on the move, but will be of limited practical impact to office workers who stays mostly at their desks. After all, who wants to work traveling to and from the office?

Unfortunately, I fear that logic alone will have no part to play in the inexorable slide towards BYOD. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment, send me a tweet or drop me an email. - Paul Mah  (Twitter @paulmah)