The benefits to reading this guide
For those looking at adopting a BYOD model who are worried about the potential pitfalls, this guide will help you to understand how to remediate concerns and learn the benefits a BYOD policy can bring to your organisation, such as enabling remote working.
What is BYOD?
BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is the principle of allowing employees to use personal devices (such as a home PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone) to connect to your company’s network to access work-related applications, files and even desktops.
Lockdown Britain and BYOD
Atlas Cloud conducted a national survey to ascertain how ordinarily office-based UK workers were coping in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. 30% of those surveyed were worryingly still working from their company office, highlighting a trend of companies either unable or unwilling to support remote working. Of those who were thankfully working from home, just under a quarter (24.5%) were doing so on a personal device and just over a half (52.7%) using an existing company laptop. 7.1% of respondents had the hassle of lugging work PCs home or having to wait for them to be delivered and 15.7% were supplied with a laptop purchased specifically in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
So with only a quarter of the UK benefiting from employers enabling BYOD, there was nearly another quarter that may well have been impacted by logistical delays around receiving existing work PCs or acquiring new laptops to work effectively from home. March 2020 saw companies frantically buying up laptops and domain-joining them to enable secure home working for their newly distributed workforces. Many were hampered by issues in the UK technology supply chain caused by distribution problems in China coupled with a rapid increase in demand.
Historically, many IT departments have not been keen on the idea of BYOD. Let’s take a look at some of the common pushbacks, accompanied by some interesting stats from the aforementioned Atlas Cloud survey:
Employees storing data on personal devices is a massive security risk and can put a company at risk of breaching data protection laws such as the GDPR. Theft (via a 3rd party or the employee themselves) and accidental loss are big potential issues. Additionally, having insufficient antivirus software installed leaves data more at threat from cyber criminals. Nearly 58% of those using personal devices have stored potentially sensitive work files on the them during the Covid-19 crisis.
Lack of Visibility and Control
If personal devices are not domain-joined, then it can be near impossible to control or track the activity of those working from home. For instance, files may be downloaded and transferred via non-approved channels with IT administrators finding it hard to implement user security and access policies.
Lack of Access to Critical Applications
Personal devices may not have applications installed that are critical to individual roles (think productivity suites, design tools etc.). Similarly, access to on-premise applications (think accounting packages, CRMs, ERPs etc.) can be extremely tricky without access to clunky VPNs set up. Licensing costs and restrictions will often prevent the installation of these critical apps on personal devices. Almost a fifth of home workers using personal devices said they had issues with accessing critical work applications.
Disjointed User Experience
Working on personal devices can often create a disjointed user experience which inevitably leads to a significant dip in productivity. This tends to manifest itself in convoluted and sluggish access to work files and applications when compared to accessing through a work device, particularly in the office itself. For instance, needing to frequently switch from device to a poorly performing VPN or having to use slower or less fully featured web versions of applications. Of those reporting a dip in productivity while working at home on personal devices, almost a quarter (24.8%) cited a disjointed experience as being the reason.
Device Performance Issues
On top of all of the above, personal devices may not be up to the tasks that users require them to perform. For instance, processing power or RAM can severely hinder home workers in running applications critical to their role. So even if employees are able to install the applications they need, there is no guarantee that they’ll be able to run them. Just over a quarter (25.6%) of respondents stated that poor performance of personal devices had led to a dip in the productivity when working from home.
How Cloud Computing Makes BYOD Feasible
All of the pushbacks above can be tied back to inflexible IT models and processes. For example, those following a Device-Led IT model, where applications and desktops are tied to specific devices, will almost certainly feel the pain of trying to adopt BYOD. However, cloud computing can flip this on its head by enabling a Server-Led IT model that frees the user from needing to use specific devices in specific locations in order to get the optimum user experience. Hosted desktops and applications plus cloud file sharing and collaboration tools could prove the key to achieving a truly flexible and productive distributed workforce that can work remotely anywhere on any device. This is how:
Enterprise-Level Security Regardless of Device
With cloud IT your data resides in data centres with security and infrastructure that is near impossible to replicate in company offices. Access to hosted desktops, applications and network files is via a single sign-on to the cloud, protected by Multi-Factor Authentication. With all work and actions taking place remotely in the data centre, no data is stored on actual devices, so you can remain compliant regardless of employees using personal devices to connect.
Centralised Control and Monitoring
As everything is held on servers, cloud computing allows for centralised control and provisioning of desktops and applications. It also enables monitoring of user activity and the enforcement of access and security policies (e.g. you could have profile-based access to certain network drives and restrict the copying and pasting between cloud and device). This will be the case regardless of the device used as it will merely be a vehicle for accessing the cloud.
Access to Everything You Need
Truly efficient remote working relies on access. As previously mentioned, desktops and applications can be provisioned centrally with cloud computing. By implementing hosted / virtual desktops and installing applications on top of them you can dispense with the need to install on physical devices. With everything residing in the cloud, employees have the choice of using any device to go about their work while still having full access to all the files and applications they need to perform their role. This is not only true for SaaS / web applications but also for those that traditionally sit on-premise which can easily be virtualised to provide external access.
A Consistent User Experience Every Time
Following a Server-Led IT model you can ensure a consistent user experience regardless of the device being used and even where it’s being used. User access is via a simple receiver application that connects to a server within the data centre, so each time you log on you’re faced with exactly the same set up. You can even resume a session exactly where you left off, without shutting down all your applications as you would on a physical device. No need for clunky VPNs or swapping between different systems.
When accessing hosted desktops and applications, performance is restricted by the virtual CPU, GPU, RAM etc. of your virtual machines (VMs) and not by the physical device you happen to be using. What’s more these virtual components can be easily scaled up or down to provide the performance required by individual users, with role-based profiles a breeze to set up. Thanks to the virtual processing power of the cloud, a low-spec device can achieve staggering performance levels and run highly demanding applications. Of course, it isn’t the device that’s actually achieving this, rather the cloud server. What’s more, because you’re essentially using the internet connection of the data centre, users don’t need to worry about having poor home internet. Minimal bandwidth is required to support a bridge to the data centre.
The Benefits of BYOD
We’ve looked at the feasibility of BYOD, so let’s now look at the reasons why you would want to implement it in the first place:
A word on Endpoint management
We've focused heavily on utilising hosted desktops to enable secure and effective BYOD as we believe this is the most flexible and robust solution. However, the control of devices connecting to company resources (known as endpoint management) can be achieved in numerous ways either without or in tandem with a hosted desktop. Let's take a brief look at a couple of the most popular endpoint management solutions from Citrix and Microsoft:
Citrix Endpoint Management
With Citrix-based solutions you can take advantage of Citrix's advanced endpoint management tool in order to enroll devices. It allows you to manage every endpoint device from a single central console using Unified Endpoint Management. Coupled with Citrix Workspace this provides a very powerful way to safely and efficiently manage and access company resources via personal devices.
Microsoft Endpoint Manager
For Microsoft 365 subscribers Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) includes a range of tools that help to manage both your BYOD and company device estate. For example, Intune can integrate with Azure Active Directory and Azure Information Protection in order to enable authenticated and secure access to corporate data on enrolled mobile devices (e.g. laptops, tablets, smartphones).
A Mini Case Study:
Going Fully Remote Overnight
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, at Atlas Cloud we knew we’d be just fine as a provider of cloud IT solutions. After all, if we couldn’t mobilise a remote workforce what hope was there for anyone else? We made the decision at an early stage to go fully remote in all functions of our business and our BYOD policy allowed us to do so overnight, with zero impact to productivity or the service our customers received. In fact, our service desk went on to achieve their best NPS (Net Promoter Score) rating ever (+84) in what was their busiest months in history in terms of case numbers and new customer on-boarding.
Our employees switched seamlessly into a distributed workforce model. We only needed to supply one employee with a Chromebook and a few others with peripherals (e.g. headsets, HDMI splitters etc.) in order to optimise their performance. Some took monitors home from the office so that they could benefit from dual screens. All-in-all it cost us £650 to shift our entire workforce to work from home with the overwhelming majority utilising their pre-existing personal devices.
BYOD has been spoken about for years as one of the great benefits of cloud computing. However, many IT departments have been historically reluctant to embrace the cloud and therefore enable an effective and secure BYOD policy. With the Covid-19 pandemic, those who invested in cloud solutions are now starting to realise the full value of a BYOD policy, with workforces shifting to home working at greater speed and comfort and minimal cost to their employers.
With the UK lockdown set to be protracted and further waves of the virus a real possibility, cloud service providers are seeing an uptick in demand for their remote working solutions. If you feel it’s time that your organisation made the move to the cloud, speak to Atlas Cloud today for free impartial advice on our public and private cloud solutions that could unleash the true potential of your remote workers.