Authorities for the state of Delaware set out to reduce IT spending and discovered a concept that is growing in popularity: reduce hardware costs by allowing and even encouraging employees to use their own devices. They gave it a whirl. From smartphones to laptops to tablets, the state recognized $2.5 million in savings just by letting employees use the devices that they themselves had already paid for.1 The rise of cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) applications means that in a growing number of cases, any device that’s able to connect to the Internet or to a specific network can be used to fully perform all necessary work-related tasks.
This cost-saving movement is making its way into government agencies, but not without issues. One municipal agency in central California that we work with recently found that a large number of employees were choosing to access the network on their personal smartphones through a stock web browser. While this type of convenience is good for the employees, it did cause alarm for the agency itself as their team wondered, “How do we control the data that’s being transmitted into and out of the network if employees are using their own devices?” With no policies or controls in place, the agency felt vulnerable. At the same time, adopting a strategy where employees could use their own devices would lead to happier workers and greatly reduced IT spending.
The rise of BYOD in all types of business
With more than half of all private organizations already embracing a bring your own device or BYOD strategy, it only makes sense that eventually government agencies would also allow employees to utilize their own devices. In fact, some reports suggest that half of employers will require employees to supply their own devices in the next few years.2 But giving freedom and flexibility to state or municipal workers to bring their own laptops, tablets, and smartphones into work is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Government agencies must have policies and controls in place that make BYOD successful for both the worker and the agency. Saving budget dollars by not having to buy equipment for workers is nice–but not if it comes at the cost of a less secure network.
Most often we speak with government entities eager to find real cost savings in their IT budgets. Like the state of Delaware above, these agencies are looking to reduce IT spending, and BYOD programs are a great place to start. But the goal of reducing line items in a budget can be a difficult process. The primary challenges we see when government agencies choose to incorporate BYOD strategies typically revolve around administration and control. Who has access to the device? Can it be locked or even wiped remotely? What kind of data encryption or security is required? A smart BYOD program begins with setting ground rules that employees must agree to when choosing to use their own device. Aside from rules about how and when the devices can be used, our suggestion is to also add remote management and security software that gives municipal administrators access to data and messages on the phone, as well as the ability to lock down or disable the device in the event it is lost or stolen. For a few dollars per month per device, this software can deliver peace of mind to the agency while allowing employees to use the device of their choice.
Workers face challenges as well when it comes to using their own devices for work. Since these are personal devices, they are being used for personal activities as well as work. As a result, a great deal of private information is likely stored on the same devices that work-related data is being stored. Just as employees would rather their employers not have access to this data, government agencies also want private information like pictures, social networking, and personal text messages to stay far away from their network. Laws and regulations mean that cohabitation of data can cause problems from a compliance perspective.
The reality, however, is that you can’t have it all. If government agencies are going to allow employees to utilize their own devices for public work, then those employees must also understand that they carry the responsibility to not utilize the devices in ways that could negatively affect the agency. Employees must also understand that the security required by their employer is a small price to pay for being able to use the device of their choice.
Getting the ball rolling for BYOD
If your agency is considering a bring-your-own-device strategy, our suggestion is to choose one type of device to focus on initially. For example, many municipal governments have employees that utilize laptops for work both in the office and in the field. Some employees would prefer to use their own personal laptop. Since securing and managing laptops should be something you are already doing, simply transitioning these policies to personal computers is much easier than adding in a BYOD smartphone strategy. Letting employees get used to the fact that their personal laptops are under administration by their employer is a good first step.
Integrating personal tablets and smartphones into a BYOD strategy can be a bit more complex. However, because these devices are almost always connected to a cellular network, you can harness the power of cloud management tools like those provided by DiamondIT. With DiamondIT monitoring employee devices, you can be sure that private data remains private, and any unauthorized access or use can be shut down right away. Employees, too, can have the peace of mind that their personal messages or files are not being pushed to their work network.
Integrating a BYOD strategy doesn’t have to be difficult, but it can get a little complicated. Developing a set of policies and rules to keep all data safe, and then making sure employees understand those rules, is just the beginning. From there, adding monitoring and management software to devices and then making sure they stay safe and secure requires ongoing effort. Learn more about how DiamondIT’s BYOD and cloud management solutions can make employees using their own devices a reality for your government entity.