Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as a trend is touching enterprises of all sizes. The Small to Medium Business (SMB) can find a lot to love in BYOD, but to reap the benefits, they need to pay close attention to the basics and not be drawn into the hype.
BYOD policies of even a formal BYOD initiative may seem overkill for an SMB. There's a lot of contradicting viewpoints about whether or not an SMB even needs to worry about BYOD. However, if an employee's personal device is accessing your corporate network and being used to conduct corporate business on a regular basis, then your SMB needs at least a basic BYOD framework that covers device security, network security, and related policies.
Here are some basics for SMBs to consider about BYOD.
Consider phone reimbursements vs. stipend
Depending on the mobile service providers in the local area, SMBs may not have the economies of scale that larger companies have when it comes to purchase phones, calling plans, and data plans from mobile carriers. If your SMB expects employees to use their personal smartphones for business calls and email, then you need to sit down with your accountant to figure out if a phone allowance or a stipend makes the most sense for reimbursing your employees.
There isn't one-size-fits-all for this matter when it comes to SMBs, so a meeting with your accountant and some key employees to hash out reimbursements vs. a stipend could be quite enlightening.
Advocate and require smartphone security
Just because smartphones are charging on employee desks around your office does it mean that your employees are knowledgeable about mobile security, so even basic mobile security education should be part of your move to BYOD.
Before considering an expensive Mobile Device Management (MDM) system, your SMB might be better served by just advocating and requiring that smartphone security measures are in place for any BYOD smartphone that touches your company's cloud applications. Smartphone security rules could be as simple as the following:
- Password protection/locking on the home screen
- Anti-virus protection
- Find my iPhone turned on
If your SMB is trying to go BYOD on a budget, there are low cost if not free security options to consider. One example is the free version of Divide (iOS/Android) for securing your BYOD smartphones. When I reviewed Divide for TechRepublic, it's ease of setup and features left a strong impression on me. It certainly could be the focal point of a low maintenance BYOD security standard.
Go "touch free" with the cloud
BYOD is another element of an SMB's business that can take advantage of cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications. Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps for Business providing a communications infrastructure means that mobile devices can be provisioned and connect to corporate resources without the need for a VPN or other security measures. And with the help of SaaS, BYOD devices don't have to touch your corporate network, saving you from having to invest in an expensive MDM platform.
In fact, setting up email on a SaaS provider is just like setting up email from a consumer ISP, but perhaps with a few more steps. You can create a job aid to walk employees through the process of how to connect their smartphones to your SaaS-based email, or you can point them to self-help pages online so they can complete the setup by themselves.
When the SaaS model extends to Customer Relationship Management (CRM), task management, and project management, free mobile apps are available for the major platforms.
Approved apps list
If your SMB goes the SaaS route for technology infrastructure, then your approved apps list will pretty much be decided for your users. To keep setup and BYOD smartphone provisioning simple, a basic approved apps list should be set to keep your IT support requirements a bit saner.
Fortunately, beyond your SaaS apps (free downloads from the App Store or Google Play), your requirements for other phone apps should be relatively simple.
Consider self-service BYOD
Self-service BYOD is an option for SMBs to explore for reasons of sheer infrastructure and staffing. During a recent conversation with Yaacov Cohen, CEO of Harmon.ie, he espouses a lightweight approach to BYOD for his company's SMB customers, including SaaS infrastructure and an approved apps list for BYOD devices. Using a self-service approach to BYOD, your employees smartphones never touch your physical network, which lets the security experts working for your SaaS providers do the heavy lifting when it comes to your enterprise security.
BYOD for the SMB
SMBs are an ideal candidate for BYOD. By running with a basic
framework of business decisions and technology choices, they can skate by much
of the hype and doubts that make BYOD initiatives so complex at times inside
larger enterprises. Does your SMB have a BYOD policy or plans to implement a BYOD initiative? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applications for online and print technology publications. You can reach Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.