By Jason Reynolds
Electronic gadgets are so integrated into our daily routines that most people don’t leave home without them. It’s the norm for everyone to pack up their smart phones and tablets when they head into to work.
This trend, known as “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD for short, has exploded over the past few years.
The information technology research company Gartner predicts that by 2017, half of companies will actually require employees to supply their own devices to use at work.
Ninety percent of employees already do work on their personal smart phones, according to a recent Cisco study.
This new BYOD era means employees are using their own devices on company networks. On the positive side, BYOD can offer potential cost savings from incremental productivity gains and eliminating the need for companies to purchase smart phones and tablets for their employees.
But this trend also presents a new challenge for business owners. They have to figure out how to balance letting employees use their own devices to do things like surf the Web and visit social media sites while at the same time protecting the company’s network and data and ensuring normal business operations aren’t interrupted.
If your business is addressing this challenge, there are two distinct things you need to consider before opening the network to employee devices. First, develop and put policies and procedures in place to secure your company’s data and network. Second, increase your network’s speed, or bandwidth, to ensure business data and functions aren’t slowed down by the additional traffic.
Each company handles these two priorities in its own way with solutions that best fit its particular situation. But the general principles are similar, regardless of your company’s industry or size.
Secure the data and network
Filter the Internet content employees can access by deciding which sites they can visit and what they can do. Your company might approve the use of Facebook or Twitter, but only to view content, not to post updates. Or, it might decide that full use of such sites would be allowed—depending on how critical the business data is and the likelihood that it might be compromised.
Establish usage guidelines and communicate them to employees
Set up clear policies and guidelines that limit and control employee devices and state clearly what employees are allowed and not allowed to do. This could be as simple as using a six-digit password or not using easily guessed passwords like birth dates or pet names. It could also include ensuring employees always install the latest antivirus software.
Prioritize the data
Determine who is on the company’s network and what they are doing. Your company will want to decide which data relates to business and which is employee non-essential content. Then, it will prioritize the data into two buckets: that which is critical to the operation of the business and must travel first, fast, and unimpeded across the network, and that which gets a secondary status.
Set up network service tiers
Determine whether all personal and business data will run on your company’s entire network. Or, identify whether non-business data will be segregated either by delegating it to alternate paths within the single network or by using a totally different network dedicated to personal data.
Whether your company has only one large high-speed network, with or without segregation, or separate networks, is less important than having the right amount of total bandwidth. This bandwidth will be the speed that enables employees to use the network according to company guidelines without slowing down company data or compromising business operations.
Company leaders implementing BYOD should consider three factors when determining bandwidth needs: the number of employees using the network, the number of remote sites connected to the network, and the different ways, such as email, videos and conference calls, the network will be used.
Fortunately, in today’s increasingly digital world, bandwidth is inexpensive and easy to acquire. Fiber connections can be scaled to meet almost any demand.
One simplified way to think about it is to compare increasing bandwidth to opening the faucet on a water pipe. Your company can start by only turning on the faucet a little so you get a small stream. But as your company’s needs change and more bandwidth is needed, you can turn the faucet on higher, going from 10 to 200 Megabits.
By taking these steps to secure your company’s data and network and by getting the required bandwidth, you can ensure your BYOD program meets both business and employee needs.
Jason Reynolds is the Director of Business Services for Comcast in the North Florida area. Comcast Business provides communications services, including high-speed Internet, cable and digital voice services, to companies of all sizes across the region.