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BYOD Origins & Popularity

Index: Part of BYOD Strategy Series of articles

For those working in business IT there is one term that is sure to be cropping up on your radar more and more frequently; for those who work outside of IT departments you’ll be familiar with the ideas behind it – in fact you may be responsible for its prominence – even though you may be less aware of its name. The concept is BYOD or Bring Your Own Device.

BYOD is the latest trend in workplace IT deployment and one that all businesses are going to have to address whether they embrace it or not. In short the term refers to an idea in which employees in businesses and organisations are permitted, or indeed encouraged in some cases, to make use of their own devices for their job, in place of any supplied by their employer. Recent surveys have suggested that as many as 80-90% of employees could already be using their personal devices – officially or not.

In practice, the idea can manifest itself in many ways; from workers actually bringing their own devices into the office workspace and accessing local networks on site, to workers using their devices outside of the local network (from home or on the move) utilizing cloud services, such as email and cloud documents, or remoting onto the local networks using virtual private networks (VPNs).

The concept began life as BYOC (bring your own computer) but has broadened and gathered pace with the abundance of portable non-PC devices that are now commonplace amongst the general public. Meanwhile, the growth in cloud computing services and the prevalence of VPN services have provided the means by which these devices can connect and integrate with in house systems.

The principle drivers behind this momentum in BYOD are the recent advances in high end mobile/portable technology and the availability or accessibility of this technology to the general public. There has been a very real trend in the last few years, arguably led by the proliferation of the iPhone, for high powered devices to be delivered in a way that makes them usable by less ‘tech-savvy’ members of the public, beyond just professionals in the work place and traditional ‘geeks’. The idea that your mum or your gran now has a smartphone and can take part in a video call wherever they are represents the way in which complex IT functionality is now omnipresent for so many of us. All of this power can be accessed on the move, in any location, as long as there is a 3G signal or a wireless network (of which there are now plenty), and with the growth of the smartphone and tablet markets this is only going to increase the private uptake of such technology. In short most people are in possession of devices which are not only far more powerful than ever before but are far more portable.

The effect that this has on the workforce is fairly profound as more and more people become increasingly aware of such technology and its possibilities. Although many may not necessarily understand the workings of the devices they use, they do fully understand the functionality they can access and the potential of this functionality within the context of their work place. As a result, they can become frustrated with the pace at which business can respond to and invest in these opportunities which they often have on tap at home.

Adopting BYOD not only allows employees to realise this potential to the benefit of their business but can also have the beneficial side effect of boosting those employees’ morale and motivation. They can be made to feel empowered and able to add greater value in their role – no longer held back by legacy IT policy. Moreover, users of BYOD will be more familiar with how to get the best out of their own devices and so are more likely to be able to hit the ground running without the need for extensive IT training.

Allowing staff to use their own devices, even where a business is prepared to invest in subsidies for them, can reduce the overall level of IT spend. Organisations will require less investment in their own hardware and devices where private devices can be used in their place and some firms may even find that they need to pay for and install less software as users can end up making use of their existing software more often.

(Original Article by:  Stuart Mitchell)