A fixture of office life for almost 30 years, the company-owned PC or laptop is becoming obsolete, succumbing to the ‘Bring Your Own Device‘ (BYOD) phenomenon that brings risks as well as rewards to small businesses.

The benefits of BYOD for companies are simple: substantial cost savings and higher productivity among employees. According to a 2012 Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group international survey, the average savings with what’s known as a comprehensive BYOD strategy (full reliance on employee-owned devices rather than a partial or patchwork arrangement known as ‘basic BYOD’) are $1,650 a year per user. In the U.S. specifically, a typical company gains significant value even from basic BYOD, at $950 per mobile employee per year.

Protecting the data icon

The risks of BYOD aren’t always as straightforward. But mobile device and security providers have been on the leading edge of BYOD security for quite a while, helping companies protect and encrypt data, networks and enterprise-wide communication while ensuring their employees are content using whichever personal device they prefer.

BYOD Security

Here is why BYOD security is so important: employee-owned smartphones, tablets and laptops are likely to be required at 50 percent of companies around the world by 2017, according to an international survey by Gartner. Worldwide, the number of BYOD users is expected to grow to 406 million by 2016, according to Cotbi. Their varied devices, platforms, software programs, apps and carriers can expose companies to tremendous vulnerability unless a security expert develops an impenetrable wall around the devices and the networks with which they connect.

According to Forbes, keeping work and life as separate as possible on your smartphone is crucial. It may also be a wise decision to invest in an identity theft protection service if you plan on using your device for different purposes. Keep you information protected to avoid the risk of it being compromised. When corporate information is stored on the same platform as personal data, potential security breaches exist. BYOD-ers don’t always update their operating systems and software when they should and that can translate to exploitable weaknesses in a company’s IT framework. Applications downloaded by users could access and hijack proprietary data. For instance, games could contain malware. The question for IT departments then becomes: how can employees securely complete work-related tasks on devices they own?

Solutions Include compartmentalizing

The answer: two techniques known as containerization and encryption. Containerization, also called “sandboxing,” is a collective term for diverse technologies that many mobile device management providers implement to create separate workspace on a mobile device. This offers employees an opportunity to use their smartphones and tablets for personal purposes while operating under the security that IT requires. The work environment — including important files, intellectual property, applications and content — is completely encrypted, managed and secured, and therefore protected. Simultaneously, the user has the flexibility to use apps in the personal realm. In addition, moving from one workspace to the next can be as simple as a single motion in many cases.

With BYOD increasing in the workplace, it’s reassuring to know that the benefits of this shift in hardware ownership can be preserved with simple guidance from security experts.