BYOD: Facing the Challenges When You Bring Your Own Device to Work

You’ve seen them around town — in the coffee shops, on the train and, yes, even at home. They’re the people who carry two smartphones around — one for work and one for personal use. Others tote both a smartphone and a tablet, and can’t do without either.

The “two is better than one approach” has become somewhat of a necessary evil as a growing number of companies are faced with unprecedented security concerns around mobile access to their sensitive files and databases. Likewise for workers, carrying two devices has been the best way to keep the IT department from sniffing around personal mobile matters — from text messages and social media updates to Instagram photos and gaming apps.

woman talking on the phone at workBut a shift is on the horizon and many companies that have been side-stepping the concerns that come with a concept called BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, are fast discovering that they can no longer ignore it. The idea of carrying around a second smartphone for secure access to company files and email is something that workers accepted – but never really liked.

For IT departments, the problem has only intensified as employees connect their own devices — such as tablet PCs — into the workplace networks while also having access to consumer cloud software, such as online storage sites that would allow company documents to be uploaded to a consumer cloud.

In the U.S. alone, 37 percent of workers are bringing their own gadgets into the workplace without formal permissions or policies in place, according to Forrester Research. Globally, that number jumps to 57 percent, according to a study of 17 global markets by research firm Ovum. Meanwhile, 18 percent of the respondents to Ovum’s survey said their employer’s IT department has no idea that workers are using their own gadgets, while 28 percent of those surveyed said IT managers “actively ignore” BYOD.

Yet, companies aren’t blind to the problem — Information Week found that 90 percent of IT professionals feel that mobile devices pose a significant threat to security. Still, 89 percent of IT workers enable BYOD, according to a Cisco survey (PDF), while  an estimated 80 percent of the global workforce will be eligible to participate in a BYOD program by 2014, according to market researcher Gartner Inc.

The time has come for a discussion about BYOD and, at January’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a panel of experts will tackle the topic during a session called “Bring Your Own Device: Strategies for Securing Information in the Enterprise.” It’s an important discussion at a consumer-focused show because consumers, just as much as their employers, are interested in keeping personal information and company information separate.

While this challenge can be tackled in a number of policy-centric ways, Broadcom is pointing to a technology called App-IQ, which enables application-levelCES 2013 Logo intelligence on a chip. App-IQ, based on the BCM56545, involves authentication of a particular application on the chip, keeping company data separate from everything else on the device while also implementing permissions and policies — without the need for an expensive, specialized appliance at the data center level.

It’s also important to note that BYOD is about more than just keeping information separate and secure. There’s also the concern around personal devices — smartphones and tablets, notably — being carried into the workplace and tapping into the company’s network to enable Web surfing, streaming and other bandwidth-hogging, not to mention potentially risky, online activities.

Again, policies and permissions come into play, but Broadcom also offers a lineup of knowledge-based processors that are helping IT organizations parse, sort and analyze network traffic at the packet level for a more unified network. And, on the back end, Broadcom’s cloud-scale networking technologies allow more virtual applications while gigabit-speed 5G WiFi ushers in a more reliable connectivity experience.

Crafting IT policies that start to recognize and deal with BYOD concerns will certainly bring a new set of challenges for companies — but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. As companies recognize their options for addressing their concerns, the shift could actually end up being a positive for both the worker and the IT department.

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About the Author

Tamara Snowden is Senior Manager of Product Communications for the Infrastructure & Networking Group at Broadcom. She leads global communications activities for all things networking and Ethernet… More