Bring Your Own Device to Work

Mike Wilson Expert Advice

Bring Your Own Device to Work
Mike Wilson

It’s no surprise that smartphones and tablets have taken over the workplace. But did you know that more than 350 million employees worldwide will use their own devices on company networks, up from basically zero only a few years ago?

Clearly, we are now well into the BYOD — Bring Your Own Device — era.

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BYOD has been a part of today’s workplace since at least the introduction of the first iPhone, but it became a major trend only in the past few years. That’s when companies recognized the potential cost savings BYOD offered. This meant they no longer needed to buy smartphones and tablets for employees, while they gained incremental productivity.

Since then, however, companies have struggled with how to allow employees to surf the Web, visit social media sites or otherwise use their devices at work, while at the same time protecting and securing company data and networks.

If your business is in the midst of addressing this challenge, there are two critical actions you need to consider before opening the network to employee devices. First, put in place solid actions, policies and procedures that will secure your company’s data and network. Second, increase your network’s speed (bandwidth) enough to ensure business data and functions are not impeded.

Depending on your company’s industry and size, you may handle these two priorities differently but, in general, here are the steps you want to take.

Secure the Data and Network

To secure the data and network, your company will want to:

Filter content. Filter the Internet content employees can access by deciding which sites they can visit and what they can do there. For example, your company might approve the use of Facebook or Twitter, but only to view content, not to post updates. Or it might allow full use of these sites depending on how critical the business data is and the likelihood that it might be compromised.

Establish use guidelines and put training in place. Set up policies and guidelines that limit and control personal devices and state clearly what employees should and should not do. This could be as simple as requiring a six-digit password or not using easily guessed passwords like birthdates or pet names. It could also include ensuring employees install and keep updated the latest antiviral software.

Prioritize the data. Determine who’s on the network and what they are doing by deciding which data relates to business and which is employee non-essential content. This 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. Decide whether all personal and business data will run on your company’s entire network. Alternatively, identify whether non-business data is segregated by delegating it to alternate paths within the single network or by using a totally different network dedicated to personal data.

Increase Bandwidth

Regardless of whether your company has one large high-speed network (with or without segregation) or separate networks, the most important thing is that you have the right amount of total bandwidth. This bandwidth will be the speed that enables employees to use the network as they want (per your guidelines) without slowing down company data or compromising business operations.

Three factors will determine the amount of bandwidth you’ll need when implementing your BYOD program: the number of employees using the network, the number of remote sites connected to the network and the different ways (videos, conference calls, email, small data files, etc.) the network will be used.

When considering the need for greater speed, the good news is that bandwidth is inexpensive and easy to acquire as today’s fiber connections can be scaled to meet demand. While somewhat more complicated, increasing bandwidth is similar to opening the faucet on a water pipe. Your company can start with a small stream and later open the bandwidth up to a gusher going from 10 to 200 megabits (or more) as its needs change.

By taking these fundamental steps to secure your company’s data and network, and by having the required bandwidth, you can safeguard your BYOD program to ensure it meets both business and employee needs. n

Mike Wilson is senior director of government affairs for Comcast in the company’s Little Rock office. Email him at