BYOD or Bring Your Own Device is an IT strategy that encourages and supports employees bringing in their personal devices, and sets out policies and specifications regarding these devices.  Having a myriad of devices creates a bit of chaos, which is especially concerning (and risky) when thinking about your company’s data.  It also raises a multitude of questions that you must be prepared to answer—and provide a corporate policy to address.

At the bare minimum, your corporate BYOD policy should contain the following:

Define and Specify

You must decide which devices you are going to support. All mobile devices? Just cell phones? Just tablets? Then, you must specify what versions and levels of devices your company will support. For example, all cell phones that run iOS 6.0 or greater or Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating  systems or greater. Stay current; you don’t want to encourage employees to bring in old devices with outdated operating systems that can cause headaches (and security problems) for your IT team.

Password Rules 

Your BYOD policy must outline password specifications for your users. Will the device rotate passwords after a certain period of time? What is the minimum number of characters required for the password and are you regulating a certain password construction? Will the device lock after a number of unauthorized attempts to access data?

Address the Apps

Clearly state which apps will be supported. Will you only be supporting email functionality? Or will you be supporting calendaring, Word, PDF readers and an entire office suite? Be specific.

Payment

This section needs to define who will be paying for the device, work apps, and ongoing usage charges. Employees need to understand for which charges they are responsible.

Data Protection/Security

Explicitly lay out the types of protection and security you will be requiring on these devices—this should include everything from anti-malware programs (on Windows and Android devices) to restrictions on downloading company documents. Will there be certain anti-virus, anti-spam, and anti-malware that your organization will provide and support? Will there be rules against downloading company documents? Will you be limiting network or application access to enhance security?

Employee Leaves or is Terminated

Your BYOD policy must address what happens when an employee leaves—or is terminated from—the company. It must also include actions that will be taken if a device is lost. It is imperative that corporations retain the right to remotely wipe all data from a device in any of these scenarios. In addition to leaving or being terminated, clearly state that the employee’s device will be remotely wiped if the employee loses the device, a data or policy breach has been detected, or if an incorrect password is typed in more than a certain number of consecutive times.

Access/Collaboration 

This section should address how corporate information will be shared on these devices. Will you create access to a corporate DropBox account or will access be more sophisticated and extensive (e.g., allowing employees to access their desktop from these mobile devices)?   If you leave this up to the individual, then you will find that everyone is accessing data differently, and you will have some data chaos on your hands—which is difficult to remedy.

Expectation of Privacy

It should be noted that your organization respects the privacy of its employees, but that a device used for work will need to be accessed by multiple stakeholders. The privacy policy should note that any and all communications passing through the device (even personal ones) could be accessed and referred to at any time.

Liability

Your organization’s BYOD policy must contain a section on liability that protects the company from the loss of any of the user’s data and from any service disruptions. In addition, note that you have the right to remove any supplied applications from the device as a result of a violation of the BYOD policy. In addition, your policy should include a statement about how users are expected to follow all safety laws, regulations, and common sense when using their smartphones (i.e., no texting while driving).

Last word

At the end of the day, BYOD is more than just a policy; it is a shift in corporate culture. If your organization is one that requires personal mobile access for maximum productivity, and you are willing to invest the IT support dollars that inevitably come with a strong BYOD policy, then go for it.

If, on the other hand, you are leading a high-security organization or your company’s industry is highly-regulated and requires multiple levels of compliance, a BYOD environment might not right for you.

In general, it is important to remember that the greater the variety of devices you allow onto your organization’s network, the higher your risk for data loss. BYOD policies must be thorough, comprehensive, and accompanied by multiple trainings to ensure that both employees and corporate executives understand the benefits and risks.

Small Cheetah

Optimal’s e-newsletter articles contain original content by Heinan Landa.  Permission is granted to copy this article as long as the following information is included: Heinan Landa is CEO of Optimal Networks, an IT support, management, and consulting company that helps technology drive clients’ business goals.  For more information, visit www.optimalnetworks.com or call 240-499-7900.