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Is BYOD Safe For Small Businesses?

How Small Businesses Can Have The Best Of Both Worlds

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a decision that business owners typically face at some point, particularly with startups and small businesses, but is it a good idea and how can it work successfully? You can also watch this video to learn more:

We want our employees to have the technology they need to be effective in today’s mobile work environment, yet it’s expensive to outfit every employee with a phone and PC or mobile device. And then there’s the issue of using personal devices for professional purposes. If you allow them to use their own personal devices, are you putting your company at risk? 

Many experts believe it’s a good move as long as clear guardrails are in place and enforced. There are plenty of reasons to jump on the personal device bandwagon, and thankfully, there are applications like small business communications solutions that allow you to connect a business phone number to any device.

For employees, BYOD offers greater flexibility and mobility on devices they are used to and prefer, all leading to greater productivity and satisfaction. On the business side, stipends aside, it gives employees freedom that can dramatically reduce hardware and licensing costs, as well as ongoing maintenance costs.

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BYOD Stats

If you’re considering it for your small business, we’ve put together some interesting stats that offer perspective:

  • 55% of people surveyed say they use personal devices for their work at least some of the time (Gartner)
  • 82% of companies let employees use personal devices for work (Trend Micro)
  • 61% of Gen Y and 50% of 30+-year-old workers believe their personal devices help them be more productive than those issued by their employer (Dell)
  • Companies with BYOD allowances save $350 per employee per year (Cisco)
  • 69% of IT decision-makers in the U.S. say BYOD is a positive development (up to 88% in some countries) (Cisco)

The truth is many people will use their personal devices whether their employer specifically allows it or not. Most likely, they are using personal devices for some work-related tasks, such as checking work emails and making calls, and company-issued devices for accessing company systems and assets. Is it worth implementing a BYOD policy to maintain some control?

The Workplace Has Changed

If you haven’t noticed, the workplace looks altogether different than it did even a decade ago. BYOD is nothing new, but COVID-19 transformed it from a nice-to-have to a business necessity, enabling people to work wherever they wanted. Today, it’s become the norm. Employees are more mobile than ever. As with anything, there are pros and cons to all of this mobility.

Goodbye 9 to 5

It almost sounds archaic to define a work day as 9 to 5. For most, it’s more likely 8 to 5ish. At least it was before the pandemic shook routines up a bit. Now, anything goes for some. 

Workplace expectations have changed, and now, more employees can work when and where they want on devices they like. As any remote worker will tell you, the traditional 8/9 to 5 work day almost always extends beyond those parameters. 

Today, many people have greater flexibility to work when it’s most convenient for them. They may still get their 40 hours in each week, but it’s often on their schedules. Company execs are becoming more comfortable with the notion, at least if job positions lend themselves well to such flexibility.

And who wouldn’t want to work when it’s most convenient? You can attend a child’s school function, take a long lunch or build in more work-life balance while still completing all of your work. Forget clocking in and out, sitting at a desk outfitted with a desktop and desk phone. Today’s workers have more leverage, and now that we know the remote thing can work well, they are demanding at least a hybrid work environment.

Finding The Balance

Sure, many companies are requiring employees to return, about 50%, to be more precise. But studies also show that nearly the same percentage of workers are demanding to remain working from home and say they will quit unless they are given that option.

The ability to work nights, weekends, and off-hours is enabled primarily by technology. Forbes says, “In the past, we didn’t possess the technologies that easily connect people so there was more of a need to herd everyone together in one place.

With a variety of online video platforms, interactive and conversational software, and the means to instantly send messages and communicate with people around the world, there is no longer a need to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last century.”

Employees may have it good, but what does that mean for you, the business owner, trying to control it? How do you give your employees greater freedom, which often translates into greater employee retention, without sacrificing quality and security standards?

What type of BYOD policy do you need to implement, which cloud-based communications carrier should you choose, and what kinds of stipends will you provide, if any?

Security and Personal Devices

As we know, many companies allow employees to use their own devices, and the wise ones implement strict BYOD policies to ensure their employees understand the risks and are using their chosen devices securely. With so many employees using their devices to access customer information or company systems and assets, it’s easy to see why many business owners get a little nervous.

Having a BYOD policy is a must, and it will include everything from the types of acceptable personal devices to password requirements to specific security software users must download to secure their devices. There must, of course, be governance and oversight. The larger your company, the more challenging this may be, but it’s the only way to ensure employees are abiding by the rules. 

Whether you already have a policy or aren’t sure what to include in one, SHRM does an excellent job explaining the protocols, restrictions, privacy access, company stipend, and device protection. They also outline what to do when an employee is terminated or leaves the company and what happens if they violate the policy.

Application Overload

So much has changed in the past decade or so when it comes to business technology. The technology stack is expanding, and even small businesses utilize 73 applications to run their operations. It can be overwhelming to manage and maintain. Are you and your staff using all of those applications? 

One report found only about 45% of company apps are used on a regular basis. Even more shocking is that 56% of all applications are shadow IT, according to the same report. That means employees are downloading their own applications without the knowledge, consent, or control of IT. That’s scary. 

And why are they downloading rogue apps? The report says that “employees are finding more value in the tools they select for themselves.” The same can often be said of the devices they are using.

People will use the devices they like, and allowing them to use their personal devices for work can, in fact, give you greater control than if you forced them to use company-issued computers and phones.

The key is to have those guardrails in place but also to give them access to applications that enable them, not hold them back. One such application is a cloud-based communications platform they can download and access from their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop.

Communications on Personal Devices

Businesses still need to communicate with each other and prospects, customers, partners, and suppliers, but it doesn’t always mean they have to purchase physical equipment, like routers and desk phones to enable inbound and outbound calling. BYOD minimizes the need for these types of investments.

Fortunately, cloud-based phone services, most often thanks to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), allow users to enjoy enterprise-level communications capabilities they expect from a desk phone directly on their mobile devices. 

Mobile Employees Require Mobile Communications Options

Even with fewer employees coming into a corporate office on a daily basis, they should be able to communicate and work when they are on the go. They may be traveling, working remotely, or doing business on the fly. Not being tethered to a desk phone is a huge advancement in workplace productivity.

Even with the promise of productivity, small businesses frequently allow BYOD because it saves them money. They may not be thinking of anything else other than helping the bottom line. Allowing personal devices may be cheaper than commissioning an inventory of technology for each employee, but BYOD can be riddled with security vulnerabilities. It can also be highly unprofessional.

Personal Devices Have Inherent Security Risks

When employees are working from their own devices, they introduce risks that office-based equipment may not pose. They can innocently be checking email or connecting to company networks without knowing they’re putting the company at risk. 

For example, data breaches can happen in multiple ways, such as through malware, viruses, Trojans, and ransomware. But one of the greatest risks? Unsecured public WiFi. Then, there’s the fact that devices are often stolen, lost, or hacked. 

Of course, most of these can happen on company-issued devices, but typically, those devices have company security software installed. With personal devices, unless there is a strict BYOD policy with regular inspections that such software is installed, it’s impossible to know what vulnerabilities each device has. You’re leaving it up to the employee to manage their devices’ security, even while many have no clue how they are putting their device, its data, and the company at risk.

Accessing company networks and data from personal devices is just the beginning. How they use their devices to communicate with other professionals and customers is equally important to address.

Personal Devices Can Impact Brand Perception

You may be a small business, but you don’t want to appear inexperienced. Many consumers love working with local, small businesses but only if they feel they are legitimate. Seeing an unrecognizable number with a personal name on caller ID instead of your business name and number isn’t exactly reassuring. It’s likely to be ignored or even flagged as junk.

Likewise, if your employee has a personal device that stores personal and professional contacts together in the same application, how confident are you that they will answer calls in a professional manner if they aren’t sure who the caller is? If you have customers calling your business, you likely want them to feel like they are contacting a business, not an unprepared employee.

Personal Devices and Former Employees

Another issue to consider is the fact that employees are rarely lifers these days. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median employee tenure in 2022 was 3.7 years for private-sector employees. 

If an employee has professional contacts in their personal contacts list, what risk is there that they will contact employees after their departure?

If, on the other hand, their professional contacts are contained within an IT-controlled company communications app or web platform, an IT admin can easily remove that employee from the user list with the click of a button. They instantly have no more access to business contacts contained within the system. It’s just as simple to add new employees to the platform. 

What Kind of Features Are In Cloud-Based Communications Platforms?

Today’s cloud-based communications are a far cry from your parent’s phone system. In fact, more and more companies are relying on cloud communications over landline-based phone systems. The best ones offer voice, text, video, fax, conferencing, and collaboration. Let’s go through some of the best features and benefits you can expect.

Procurement, Set Up, and Administration

BYOD is great for businesses of all sizes who don’t want to purchase expensive equipment and infrastructure to enable business communications. It offers much greater ongoing flexibility as well.

For instance, startups and small businesses are often in a high growth mode, continually adding new employees. With a landline-based number, you’d have to constantly be ordering new equipment and paying for installation to keep up. 

With a cloud-based phone system, you can purchase only the virtual lines you need when you need them. You aren’t paying for any equipment you may not need in three months, and you aren’t scrambling to find the budget and time to get a new employee onboarded with a phone system. 

You’re also not asking your employees to carry two or more personal devices. They can use their regular personal device to conduct all of their day-to-day communications — all without sacrificing your business reputation or adding a lot of extra costs.

How It Works

One of the biggest benefits of cloud-based communications is how easy it is to set up and manage. Instead of purchasing phones and equipment and calling a tech to install new lines,

you or your admin goes online to sign up for a VoIP phone solution, choose a plan, and go onto the cloud-based phone provider platform to add users. 

All that the employee has to do is download the provider app to their personal Android or iOS device(s) and set up their contact list in the app. Any work-related calls are made or received through the cloud-based app over your carrier network or using data coverage or WiFi. 

Once it’s set up, it’s easy for the employee to identify the caller as a customer, not a personal contact because the call comes through a different platform from the standard one on their mobile device. In this case, it comes through the company’s chosen communications app. It’s not only calls, either. Even business and personal voicemails and texts are separate and easily distinguishable. 

Enterprise Features

Depending on the platform you select, you may be able to port your existing business phone number or choose a new toll-free and/or custom phone number and/or a global phone number. You may have the same enterprise features available on your cloud-based system, including administrative and account management features mentioned above. 

Besides those, the list of enterprise features can be long. Again, depending on the platform, these features may be included in the monthly or annual price.

  • Address Book
  • Analog Phones
  • Audio Conferencing
  • Call Analytics
  • Call Blocking
  • Call Forwarding
  • Call Handling Rules
  • Call Logs
  • Call Notifications
  • Call Recording
  • Call Screening
  • Call Transfer
  • Call Waiting
  • Caller ID
  • Click-to-Call
  • Application Integration
  • Dial-by-Name Directory
  • Do Not Disturb
  • e911
  • Expert Support
  • Fax-from-Phone
  • Follow Me
  • Greetings
  • HD Voice
  • HIPAA Compliance
  • Hold Music
  • International Calling
  • Menus
  • Number Porting
  • Queues
  • Scheduling
  • SMS Texting
  • Text-to-Greeting
  • Video Conferencing
  • Voice Tagging
  • Voicemail to Email
  • Voicemail Transcription

Some solutions offer personal conference bridges and allow the user to seamlessly transition between calls, texts or faxes, as well as schedule video calls. Again, all of these are available within the business phone solution app.

There is much each user can do from their personal mobile devices that they would not be able to do without the communications solution downloaded on their phone.

In fact, when they download the app, they’re basically installing an enterprise communications solution onto their phone, allowing them to be as, if not more, effective and productive as if they were physically in the office using a desk phone.

Are Cloud-Based Phone Solutions Cheaper Than Landlines?

Another factor that makes cloud-based communications solutions preferable is that they require zero maintenance by company administrators or IT teams. Because the solution operates in the cloud, all updates, upgrades and other maintenance are automatically implemented by the solutions provider. The fact that IT doesn’t have to manage such a large undertaking can be a reason enough to switch. 

For a medium-sized company with up to 100 employees, a key branch exchange (PBX) is estimated to cost anywhere from $4,700 – $60,000. This price includes the hardware, software license and the first month’s maintenance fees. Repairs on a PBX system are estimated to cost $100 per extension, and that does not include labor costs.

Replacing parts and upgrading outdated systems can cost thousands of dollars, too. And all of these costs apply to one location only. For organizations with multiple locations, the costs can skyrocket.

Alternatively, a cloud-based communications solution incurs only a monthly or annual subscription cost. Each provider has different pricing plans that include various services and features, so it’s important to compare options side-by-side. For instance, a cheaper plan may restrict the number of minutes available per user or offer only limited features.

Who Pays For The Personal Devices and Carrier Charges?

One cost consideration is whether your company will cover the cost of personal devices and carrier charges. The answer depends on your company and what you’re willing to pay, if anything. Most employees will already have their own preferred personal devices and use them for personal reasons as well, so some companies opt to cover carrier charges or provide a stipend to offset some costs.

According to Samsung’s 2022 Maximizing Mobile Value study, 98% of organizations provide a full or partial stipend to compensate BYOD employees for their mobile expenses. Interestingly, that number is up by nearly 10% since 2018, indicating the value companies place on giving employees mobile options.

An Oxford Economics survey found the average monthly stipend per employee is $40.20, or $482 per year per employee. Smaller companies provide less, with $31 – $50 per employee being the most common.

Samsung suggests, “In determining whether and how much to provide BYOD employees as a monthly stipend, IT and business leaders should take a realistic look at their organization’s expectations around mobile usage. If your organization views mobile devices as essential work tools and expects BYOD employees to be able to access work remotely from their personal devices, that’s a good sign that you should be providing a stipend.

Also, if you require BYOD employees to install an MDM client on their personal phone to enforce security protections, you should also strongly consider providing some sort of compensation.”

When you look at all that is available, how easy a cloud-based phone system is to set up, and the cost benefits, it’s not surprising why so many organizations are cutting the landline cords and opting for BYOD with company-approved, cloud-based phone solutions. 

Companies may not be able to manage the entirety of their employees’ personal devices, but with the right mandated software and security solutions, they can control how they access company networks and communicate with each other and their customers. Learn more about and our affordable and robust small business communication solution.

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