BYOT: What It Means for IT

Why BYOT, Why Now?

It’s often said that Web 2.0 technology has blurred the lines between personal and private. This is true at work, too. In the past, many employees used a computer at work, and perhaps another at home, but there weren’t a lot of options for merging these two worlds, beyond logging into a virtual private network (VPN) to access office email and desktop applications.

Now, people are increasingly tech-savvy and orchestrate much of their lives through portable electronic devices. So, as their personal calendars, resumes and social lives became integrated with their devices, many began looking to add work to the mix. And, while some companies may provide smartphones for employees, many now have their own devices. Rather than carrying two pieces of equipment, many people prefer to use just one - preferably self-chosen. More recent smartphones and tablets also have become powerful enough to do much more than check company email, creating increased user demand for more capabilities that may be accessed from the office.

So, smartphones started a trend solidified by tablets. Regardless of the debate as to how much work an iPad can handle, this device has undeniably changed the computing landscape. At its core, the iPad is a multimedia and entertainment device. If there is even a shred of business use, expect users to use that as justification to bring in their tablets.

Personal Devices in the Office - Why it's Catching on

According to Brian Duckering, a senior manager with the Endpoint and Mobility group at Symantec, the problem is that IT departments have traditionally denied requests to use personal devices - too much trouble, too much risk. But when company executives began bringing iPads into the office, the tide of IT’s control over what devices a company’s employees could use began to turn - especially when those executives realized BYOT's potential work productivity benefits.

In addition to smartphones and tablets, two factors also explain why BYOT is not going away.

First, it’s the services in the cloud. Remember those days when to check email, you needed to boot Outlook at your desktop or scramble to your hotel to plug in your laptop? A company-issued laptop makes sense with non Web-based applications. But as applications make the move to Web-based formats, the need for anything but a browser has been greatly reduced. (Learn about why cloud computing has become so popular in Cloud Computing: Why the Buzz?)

Second, and partially because of the cloud transition, access has blurred the line between work and personal time. Whether this is good or bad is another debate, but employees are generally expected to stay connected for a longer portion of the week, if not 24/7. Social networking plays a role as well - A sales guy obviously may be in a CRM system but is also likely to keep a copy of his contacts on a site like LinkedIn.

Take these three factors: Mobile devices, a move to the cloud and the blurring line between work and personal life. It’s easy to understand why BYOT is here to stay - whether those in IT like it or not.

For IT, this has created an interesting challenge: How to say "yes" without sacrificing BYOT's ability to manage devices and maintain a high degree of security and control. This is especially crucial, considering many companies where BYOT is progressing most rapidly are from industries where data security is key: Finance, healthcare, government, education and retail.

Let’s move on and learn about the starting points in planning for BYOT.

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Written by Tara Struyk
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Tara Struyk is a senior editor at Techopedia.com and a freelance editor, blogger and writer for hire. She specializes in writing about personal finance, investing, careers and consumer technology. Likes: The Internet, espresso and running. Dislikes: Typos, debt and domestic vehicles.