Guest Column | January 9, 2014

Is It Time To Bid RIP To BYOD?

By Bill Thomson, Senior Director, Product Development, Cbeyond

For SMBs, “bring your own device” (BYOD) has been a double-edged sword.  BYOD has many benefits, especially for smaller businesses that need to keep costs in check. There’s no question that allowing employees to use their own mobile devices saves a business from incurring hardware costs. Plus, employees who are comfortable with the features and applications on their personal smartphones are eager to continue using them on the job. These benefits have prompted approximately half of SMBs to support BYOD policies. According to a Cisco IBSG Horizons Survey Report, 42 percent of all knowledge workers own the smartphones they use for work.

While BYOD can be a good mobility strategy for some SMBs, there are some risks to consider inherent in the policy. Unmanaged, BYOD can make it difficult to secure proprietary company data. Customer contact information and sales history information are at risk if stored locally on a mobile device and leave with the employee. An additional challenge of BYOD is the complexity of properly configuring devices that have non-standard configurations. For example, when employees bring their own mobile devices or computers, a business has less control over the applications installed and the network and security settings. When problems arise, it tends to be more difficult to diagnose problems to get the device working properly. 

Today, business phone systems that combine cloud-based PBX (private branch exchange) and mobile service offer your SMB clients an alternative to BYOD. These solutions integrate communications across all devices through a centralized phone system, providing advanced calling features that can be accessed from various devices including desktop phones, mobile handsets, and computers.  By integrating mobile phone service with a hosted phone system, businesses have more control over the phone numbers, devices, data, and contact information, reducing the likelihood of data loss or theft.

These integrated systems also enable a “dual persona” device that allows employees to keep work and personal use separate — eliminating the need for employees to carry multiple devices.  An application installed on the handset allows employees to place and receive mobile calls using their work phone numbers. With the ability for employees to use work phone numbers from their mobile devices, business phone calls can be kept separate and expenses managed more easily.

Businesses can benefit further if you can provide a complete, end-to-end solution. Company-owned devices give a business control over both the device and the data used on it. Updates, upgrades and other service related issues are far easier for the business if you provide a total solution. The company can give an employee a new cell phone with a pre-installed and configured application to link with the company’s phone system avoiding the need to call the help desk to download and configure the application properly. Further, the service can be quickly suspended and re-assigned should the employee leave.

Businesses are often wary of the cost of providing company-owned devices, but  a bundled, cloud-based phone and mobile service solution can enable businesses to provide employees with the feature-rich mobile devices they want and protect their business identities and company data, at comparable — and possibly a lower cost —  than what they pay overall for their existing systems and services.

Two key opportunities for cost savings include:

On-premise system expense. If a business operates its own PBX, it bears both the capital and operational expense of maintaining that system. By choosing to outsource all of its business phone and mobile communications services to an integrated solutions provider, a business can lower its total cost of ownership.

Mobile service reimbursement expense. Many SMBs already reimburse employees for all or part of their mobile service, and it is time-consuming for company administrators and employees alike.  Providing company-owned devices eliminates both the direct and indirect costs of subsidizing personal mobile device use.  And using providers that bundle mobile services with a hosted PBX can offer attractive bundled pricing that make this financially beneficial.

The beauty of cloud-based hosted communications solutions that integrate PBX with mobile service is that they take the guesswork out of device management and integration, allowing a business to easily deploy a cost-effective long-term communications strategy across its entire workforce. 

Bill Thomson is Senior Director, Product Development for Cbeyond, a cloud and communications services provider primarily serving the SMB market. He has more than 15 years of experience in marketing such hosted and cloud services as Voice-over-IP (VoIP), cloud PBX, hosted email, Web hosting, and others.