BYOD: A Tale of Two Bringings of Devices

BYOD is certainly a hot topic lately. A bit ago I raised some concerns over Juniper’s Junos Pulse product, which allows a company to not only protect employees BYOD devices, but to also view their photos, messages, and other potentially private information. My argument that it wasn’t that it shouldn’t be used on employer owned devices (that’s fine), but that Juniper was marketing it to be installed on employee owned devices, potentially greatly intruding on their privacy.

I got in a similar twitter discussion recently too, and it dawned on me that there were really two distinct types of BYOD:  BYODe, and BYODr. BYODe is Bring Your Own Device, Employee controlled and BYODr is BYOD, EmployeR controlled.

What’s the difference? Most BYOD I see is BYODe, where an employee is given accounts on a mail server running IMAP/POP/Exchange, a VPN client to connect to the local intranet and internal file servers, and maybe some other services (such as a salesforce.com login). The employee might be required to use an antivirus software and encrypt their hard drive, but there’s a clear delineation.

BYODr is when the employer requires a much greater level of control over the employees personal property. It might come in the form of a standard software load from IT, the ability to remotely access the employee’s device, and the ability to remote wipe the device.

If the company has the ability to look on the device itself, it’s going to limit what I do with it. Many types of personal communications, certain, uh, websites, etc., are going to be off limits for that device because my privacy is explicitly signed away for that device.

This approach chaffs at me a little, but I’m coming around to it a bit. So long as the employees have been explicitly told about all of the potentially privacy-invading functionality of the software. Students of a school weren’t informed about such capabilities in school-supplied laptops in once case (so not BYOD, but still), such as when a school district was caught viewing the webcams of students laptops in a similar BYODr scenario.

So while forking over cash for a device that you don’t get to control sounds like a raw deal, it doesn’t always need to be. I’ve become accustomed to a certain level of hardware. You know what I’m not down with? A 6 year old Dell craptop computer (Dell seems to have gotten better, but man they made some crap laptops, and IT departments ate them up like candy).

You know those shitty Dells that are universally despised? Order one for every person on staff. Except the executives. Get us the good stuff.

If my primary job is technology related, I would rather bring my own device than deal with the ancient PoS laptop they’d likely give me.

BYODe, or employee controlled BYOD, likely not be appropriate for certain industries (such as defense and healthcare), but for the most part this is what I’ve seen (and what I think about when discussing BYOD). Many high technology companies follow this approach, and it works great with a tech savvy staff who chaff at the snails pace that corporate IT can sometimes work at.

From Dropbox to app stores to gmail, corporate IT organizations can’t keep up. Sometimes it’s just a matter of the breakneck of the industry. And sometimes it’s just a matter of corporate IT sucking. I saw a few employees of a huge networking vendor lamenting their 200 MB mail box limit. It’s 2012, and people still have 200 MB as a limit? I’ve got like, 7 GBytes on my gmail account. That would go into the corporate suckage column. Dropbox? It’s hard to compete with a silicon valley startup when it comes to providing a service. Yet Dropbox is something that organizations (for some legit reasons, for some paranoid delusional reasons) fear.

So when talking about BYOD, I think it’s important to know which kind of BYOD we’re talking about. The employee requirements (simple non-intrusive VPN client to Big Brother looking into my stuff) very much change the dynamics of BYOD.

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One Response to BYOD: A Tale of Two Bringings of Devices

  1. Jodi Bart says:

    Tony – you bring up some interesting issues and sides to the BYOD discussion. Thanks for posting this! At SolarWinds, we recently partnered with Network World on a BYOD survey. Over 65 percent of IT pros who participated in the survey said they don’t have the necessary tools in place to manage non-company-issued mobile devices on the network. One respondent noted, “An increase in workload due to a more diverse hardware and software infrastructure,” and another said that the management overhead is so significant that “we needed to outsource mobile device management to keep up with the demand.” It’s definitely a constantly changing space and I think at some point, IT depts. are going to have to get a better handle on it.

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