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We’re Not Quite Living in the “Bring Your Own Device” Utopia We All Want

April 2, 2013 - Written By Joe Levin

A somewhat new idea in the workplace that has slowly been gaining steam of late is the bring your own device program. With just about everyone and their mother owning a smartphone, which by the way get more powerful by the minute it seems, the days of a company issued blackberry are becoming a thing of the past. So while it used to be common for a person to have to carry two different devices, one for work and one for play, companies are now reimbursing people for their personal mobile phone bills and giving that device access to work emails, calendars, and contacts.

The problem that IT departments are seeing is one that has plagued them since the inception of the computer and that’s security. Once they start getting into mobile apps, whether it’s importing data into them or sharing the data out to a mobile end point, there is a a very large challenge as to who has access to what data and when. With the technology moving so fast what was once acceptable practice is now obsolete and things like device wipe just don’t fit the bill anymore.

One method of security that seems to be taking hold is called “dual personality”. Dual personality is secure work space that actually separates work and personal data on the same device. On Android for example users will be able to see work data and personal data on different wallpaper, and they will have the ability to toggle between the two. So far this has been a Blackberry creation and will soon be available with Samsung’s KNOX initiative.

There are some obvious hurdles with this method however with the major one being that with the different operating systems comes different “looks” at what is essentially the same data. This means that while the solution may work across everything from IOS to Android, people will have to be trained differently to use each version of the software adding additional costs in both training and support. Additionally There will always be the people who are so used to things working a certain way that it may be difficult to remember which of the dual personality modes they are in personal or business.

While this method may be the one that envelopes the most processes, another route that a company may take is creating a walled off app for employees. This way would create a personalized business app for the employee giving them as much or as little access to information as needed with things like copy and paste restrictions, integrated VPNs, and data encryption regulated by the IT department with just the check of a box. These apps would most likely give users a similar experience across platforms and while not for every company is a decent enough solution for those looking dip their toe in the water of a bring your own device program.

While we are still in the early stages of programs like this, with the rate of technology improvements combined with companies looking to scale back in a less than stellar economy, we should be seeing more workplaces looking to adopt similar programs in an attempt to streamline their operations.