Bring your own device (BYOD) has become a reality for businesses of all sizes — in many cases, employees will be both astonished and unhappy if you don't let them make use of their own smartphones and tablets. If you're running a small business, how can you embrace BYOD without creating extra risks and hassles?
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The upsides of embracing BYOD are numerous: your employees will be happier because they're using a device they actually like, and to a certain extent you'll no longer be responsible for tech issues. Given that many small businesses don't have dedicated IT staff, eliminating this burden can be very welcome.
Nonetheless, if your staff are using those devices to access work-related resources, then you'll need to lay down some ground rules and ensure that people can access any tools they need to do their jobs. Follow these simple principles for a (relatively) pain-free BYOD experience.
Think applications, not devices
Large enterprises will sometimes create mandatory device policies, suggesting that staff can only use particular devices. This makes very little practical sense for big companies, and absolutely none for small businesses. Rather than focusing on the device, think about the applications it will need to run. In fact, even "applications" isn't really helpful: think about the services they'll need to access.
All modern smartphones and tablets are capable of accessing email, running browser-based apps and running native apps. As a business manager, your focus should be on ensuring that the essential tools you use are available on as many platforms as possible. It doesn't matter what phone (or tablet) people are using. What matters is that they can access relevant resources (whether that's a sales tracking tool, your accounting system or a task list to identify the next thing to work on).
Start with the basics
Setting up email on virtually any device is trivial — generally it's no more complex than entering the same server details you would need when setting up a computer email account. Beyond that, there are typically two approaches you can take for delivering individual apps:
- Using a specific native app designed for the device. This will often be more efficient, though mobile apps won't always offer the features of their desktop/notebook counterparts.
- Accessing those resources through a browser-based interface. This will work on virtually any device, and can be a useful alternative
Moving into a BYOD world is definitely a good argument for shifting to cloud-based versions of services (whether that's CRM, financial tracking or more business-specific tasks). Cloud services will almost always offer a browser-based version, and most will offer native apps for a variety of platforms. As well as making multiple device access easier, they also ensure you have an off-site backup of crucial business data. If you're still relying on software that has to run on a specific local server, it's worth investigating cloud alternatives.
Ensure the rules are explained
Outside of app access, the other main issue you need to consider is policy: making sure people don't misuse their devices or risk information being stolen if they misplace their phones. While large firms will often enforce this through complex mobile device management platforms, that's likely to be overkill for a small business: depending on staff numbers, you may be able to explain the policy to staff individually. But do make sure you have a written policy, even if it just contains basic statements. Here's an example of the kind of things to include:
- All phones used for work must have a passcode set on them.
- Work email accounts must not be used for personal activities.
- Don't access work resources using free Wi-Fi services.
- If your phone is lost or stolen, inform your manager.
- If you choose a phone our IT team is unfamiliar with, you will be responsible for your own support.
The exact policies needed will vary depending upon the business and the level of tech resources you have. If there is a dedicated IT manager, then having them set up the needed tools on the phone can make sense. If not, you need to spend a little time documenting crucial details (such as email login information).
Two policies you shouldn't skip: Insist that all phones are set up with a passcode, and make sure that any phones being used to access business resources have been set up with remote tracking and finding features. (All major mobile platforms have these built in; you generally don't have to pay for them.) That way, if a phone or tablet is misplaced, you'll know that the data won't be easily accessed by outsiders.
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