Embracing BYOD: Mobile challenge
Embracing BYOD: Mobile challenge

Even the government acknowledges that it can't prevent the use of personal devices for work-related functions, reports Marcos Colón.

With more than 60,000 employees, Cisco Systems has embraced the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon, defined as the burgeoning penetration of personal smartphones, tablets and laptops into the workplace. 

Steve Martino, the company's vice president of information technology, says almost 60 percent of Cisco employees have at least one mobile device connected to IT services, not including laptops, and more than 15 percent have more than one handheld that they use for job responsibilities. In terms of the benefits of deploying such an environment, the costs saved by Cisco for not issuing the devices itself are last on Martino's list, which may be surprising to some. 

Instead, employee productivity and engagement take the lead, he says. “Users who have the freedom of choice to bring their own device, are seeing about 30 minutes a day [of] greater productivity than those that are using devices they're not comfortable with,” Martino says. “I think it's comfort, it's familiarity and it's also time and place. Where and when they can use their device. Those are the two drivers.” 

Like at Cisco, many enterprises around the world are finally taking note of the advantages that mobility adds to their business. By now, security professionals are quite familiar with the BYOD term, and while the wave of mobile devices flooding the workplace wasn't initially welcomed with open arms by those charged with protecting enterprise networks, it seems as though organizations at every level believe there's no choice at this point but to embrace it. 

Many concerns revolve around the additional points of entry available for cyber criminals, increasing the likelihood of sensitive data extraction or creating disruptive scenarios that could be extremely costly for enterprises. And, with looming threats and an increasing number of threat vectors, security pros are faced with a big decision: to lock down or not to lock down. There are pros and cons, many say.

Threats are always present no matter which type of environment is deployed, says Lawrence Reusing, general manager for mobile security at Oakdale, Minn.-based data security firm Imation. He says it's only a matter of time before enterprises have to step up to the BYOD challenge at hand.

“At this point, I'd say that a significant proportion of enterprise and government organizations have accepted that BYOD is here now and is inevitable,” Reusing says. “They assume that it's necessary for organizations to support employee-owned devices.”