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BYOD adoption in SMBs: Confronting trouble, growing the business

BYOD adoption in SMBs preceded such initiatives in many enterprises, but that doesn't mean the road isn't rocky. Read how to overcome BYOD challenges.

In part one of this piece, we looked at how bring your own device (BYOD) adoption in SMBs preceded such initiatives in the enterprise, and some reasons for that trend. Here, we look at some of the BYOD challenges that SMBs face, and how to overcome them.

Moving from email to applications that tie into backend systems comes with its own risks, and many users in small businesses deploy these applications without the help of the IT department.

"Rogue is the standard operating procedure," said Michael Brandenburg, an industry analyst in unified communications and collaboration at San Antonio, Texas-based business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. For example, an employee will see an iPhone application for or another enterprise app, download it and deploy it on their own device. Because of the flatter organizational structure inherent to small businesses, users will often insist on using the same technology for work that they do at home, and the IT department -- or sole IT support person -- has a hard time saying no to that, he said.

Rogue is the standard operating procedure.

Michael Brandenburg, analyst, Frost & Sullivan

"There's not enough layers of bureaucracy to put in a mandate," Brandenburg said. Yet the absence of a mandate to not download and deploy applications without the blessing of IT puts small businesses at risk, he said.

BYOD policy is just as important as technology

According to Brandenburg, even small businesses need to be concerned about maintaining security and the integrity of data. Before BYOD, there was no question about what to do: lock down the device and require its return upon termination, or wipe the device before it could fall into the wrong hands. Now, businesses need to be application-centric when managing devices, he said.

While locking down sections of the device or requiring separate logins is a possible solution, those are extra steps that could have a chilling effect on user adoption, Brandenburg said. "The more hoops to jump through, the less interesting it is to actually use."

Michele Pelino, a principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. and author of a report on BYOD adoption and policy, recommends a mixture of technology and policy to manage BYOD programs. "While the initial starting point is executives saying, 'I want to use my iPhone,' the reality is that as you open the door, you have to put governance and policies around this," she said.

In addition to addressing security, policies must specify who actually owns the device and supports it, Pelino said. This can include using self-support channels like portal sites, directing employees to the device manufacturer and deciding who will pay for device repairs -- as well as choosing which devices to support and publishing a list to employees, she said.

Once implemented, BYOD can boost the business

For small businesses, implementing in phases may be easier than trying to figure out every BYOD issue all at once, as long as security concerns are hammered out. For Rancho Dominguez, Calif.-based printing company NextDayFlyers, security was a primary concern, said founder and CEO David Handmaker. To address concerns, Handmaker's IT staff controls network access for employees, allowing some to log in to the company files; sets up password management to control online accounts that employees use for work; and sets up email access on employee devices to sync with Outlook accounts.

More on BYOD adoption

European BYOD adoption outpacing U.S. rate

Combine BYOD and cloud for optimal results

According to Handmaker, employees bring in a mix of devices: laptops, smartphones and tablets, both Apple and Windows. NextDayFlyers's employees can access analytic data when they work from home, or if they're in the field talking to customers they can access relevant documents. "There are a lot of cloud-based applications, and it's really just access to information," Handmaker said.

"On the positive side, employees are overall more productive since they can work whenever and wherever inspiration strikes, so this is worth the investment," Handmaker said.

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