No More Wild West For Bring Your Own Devices

In June 2007, Apple launched the first iPhone, marking a new era in corporate mobility. Before the fashionable mini-computer, people used smartphones for voice, texting and email. With the iPhone and its remarkable touchscreen users could also be entertained with music, video and games. Corporate executives became so attached to their hip device, they wanted to use it for business, so they bullied IT departments into providing access to email and corporate data. Employees soon joined their bosses and the bring-your-own-device trend began.

Six years later, what started out with one smartphone has grown into an army - far too much for the Wild West atmosphere of BYOD to continue as it has been. Many companies that have allowed BYOD will soon be pulling back on such freedoms. While BYOD may not die altogether, it will carry stricter restrictions meant to finally get this trend under control.

The Fate Of BYOD

"BYOD is clearly an important trend, but we expect it to plateau in the coming one to two years as enterprises decide that the cost and security issues associated with unlimited BYOD do not warrant the anarchy and increased support costs it has often caused," a recent report from tech analyst J.Gold Associates said.

Where the iPhone use to be in a class by itself, the smartphone now competes with Android phones from Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony and 10 other vendors.  In addition, there is the BlackBerry and multiple devices running Microsoft's Windows Phone.

In 2010, Apple added the iPad to the chaos, creating a whole new market for tablet computers that brought lots of competitors from manufacturers in the Android camp.

From the beginning, BYOD was a challenge for IT departments, which had to wrestle with data security, device manageability, support and app control. Nevertheless, enterprises went along with the trend and the majority allowed at least some workers to use their personal devices for business.

But configuration, workflow and security issues were always making things difficult for IT. For instance, cyber-criminals saw an easy target in Android - with so many devices running older versions of the OS, hackers could target known vulnerabilities that were left unpatched by manufacturers and wireless carriers.

BYOD Limits

A survey of enterprises that allow employees to use their own notebooks, smartphones and tablets found that nearly half had experienced a security breach. As a result, more than 40% of the companies either restricted mobile data access or installed security software, according to the poll of more than 400 IT professionals and chief executives conducted by Decisive Analytics and released in August 2012.

Despite the breaches, only 12% of companies outright cancelled BYOD programs, an indication that most remained committed to providing flexibility to employees, while moving toward imposing rules.

Indeed, Gold found that companies are realizing "the current mostly wide-open, laissez fare approach to BYOD is not sustainable longer term, and that more controls and better strategy are needed."

As companies clamp down on BYOD, employees will likely find they will have to surrender their devices in order for IT departments to install technology to protect corporate data and communications. At the same time, manufacturers are providing more enterprise features in order to ensure their products get approved for work and play.

Samsung recently launched technology called SAFE that the vendor boasts brings enterprise-class security to selected devices. People who buy the Galaxy S III or S 4 smartphones, the Galaxy Note II smartphone/tablet hybrid or the Note 10.1 tablet have the option of including SAFE, which provides a container for corporate data and email in order to separate it from personal applications.

BlackBerry, which has always been considered the gold standard in device security, has added similar data-separating technology in the new Z10.

In time, enterprises are likely to give the nod to those devices that can meet the demands of consumers and businesses and shun those that don't. So instead of BYOD, the policy of the future will be BYODA, or bring-your-own-device-for-approval.

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