With the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace, and the dizzying array of platform choices available (i.e. Apple iOS, Windows 8, Android), you’ve probably already heard the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) buzzword being thrown around. A BYOD policy means that the company allows, or even encourages, its employees to use their personal smartphones, tablets, or laptops to perform work functions.  Often, employees are given a lot of latitude when it comes to choosing which apps or cloud services to use in the performance of their duties, as well as the choice in the device itself.

BYOD: The subject of IT staff nightmares

The benefits of a BYOD mobile device policy are a seemingly lower cost to the employer, and more liberty and comfort level for the end users.  However, from a management perspective, BYOD can be a huge liability.  On top of the complexities created in trying to support disparate mobile platforms, your company may not even be reaping any financial benefits.  A recent case in California ruled that employers must reimburse all BYOD calls.  This may extend to mobile data usage as well.

COPE: The alternative to BYOD

For those business owners and managers who aren’t willing to shoulder the potential risks and burdens of supporting a BYOD policy with their employers, COPE (or, Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled) mobile device policy may be a better option.  In a nutshell, COPE has your company purchasing and owning the devices, but applies a slightly more lenient policy when it comes to the apps that the end user wishes to install.  This has a couple of possible benefits over BYOD policies.  One strength of a COPE policy is that it keeps the hardware and operating systems standardized, which makes for much easier deployment and standardization of your company’s main go-to applications.  It also allows your company to make bulk purchases on these devices, and use corporate incentives and pricing, which can significantly reduce upfront costs.

MDM: Recommended no matter what

Regardless of whether your business chooses to go the BYOD or COPE route when it comes to mobile device policies, it is highly recommended to have a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution in place to effectively administer your mobile users and their devices.  MDM services or software place a small agent app on the device, which checks in with either a cloud-based or premise-based server.  From the management console, activation, security, remote wipe, threat tracking, and many other types of policies can be implemented.  Most enterprise-level MDM solutions can manage more than one type or brand of mobile device, which can be very helpful in companies where one department may use iOS devices, while another may use Android or Windows.

Not having an MDM system in place could result in having a mess on your hands.  The nature of mobile is such that it makes it very difficult to keep tabs on devices scattered across the country (or the globe) unless you have a centralized management system.  Most device manufacturers and cellular service providers do offer remote wipe and basic management on an individual device basis, but having even just a handful of these individual accounts to manage can become cumbersome.  If you do not have someone on staff to manage your mobile devices, an IT service provider can often help through a hosted or managed MDM solution.

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