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The hidden costs of BYOD

BYOD can mean organisations don't need to shell out for employee devices, but CIOs need to be aware of the infrastructure, support and security costs

Before plunging straight into bring-your-own-device (BYOD), it is important to be aware of some of the unforeseen costs associated with managing and running BYOD schemes.

“There are a lot of back-end costs which is borne by the enterprise and who owns the handset/device,” says Gartner vice-president and research director in CIO & Executive Leadership Research Team, Andy Rowsell-Jones.

“The devices themselves are relatively inexpensive and free if you get them from the telco. But nevertheless, there are some other costs for support and so on. Things like managed diversity and a proper set of policies – both human policies and technology policies – can go some ways towards addressing.”

Other costs can be telecommunications charges, licence fees, specialist technology fees, additional hardware charges and mobile device management software costs, says Rowsell-Jones.

The real cost is in device support, Rowsell-Jones says. Demands on the help desk to offer support to staff when their devices need fixing, especially if there are a wide variety of devices, can become “extremely hard” to manage.

Rowsell-Jones also points out that even though BYOD may reduce costs for some organisations, the organisation still has to pay for the infrastructure to support the devices.

“It’s not hugely cheaper to allow and support BYOD, especially with smartphones and tablets,” he says.

“Sometimes the purchase of the device itself is not a capital acquisition, but putting in Wi-Fi access points, and security software, and thick wires and thick pipes to carry all the data is. And that remains whether the device is wholly owned by the employee or wholly owned by the enterprise. So the way you think about it is, 'What’s the true differential cost saving?' and a lot of the infrastructure stuff is the same. The corporation has to pay for that, it’s not the employee.”

Another cost is the recovery or replacement of important corporate data if it is lost. "If one of these devices is compromised and loses its corporate data or is lost with lots of embarrassing data on it, [then] the problem of recovering that data can be quite expensive.”

Rowsell-Jones believes that, regardless of any associated costs, BYOD is inevitable.

“I don’t think CIOs have a choice. I think it’s one of those unstoppable social trends like social media that you can say ‘no, no, no’ and it will just happen anyway…

“You might as well embrace this thing and prepare for it because what you don’t want is to go through the same situations we went through in 2005-2006 where the BlackBerry really started to take off in enterprises and there was this fire drill that many CIOs in Australia, as well as elsewhere, needed to go through suddenly scrambling to build the servers and find ways of importing their email systems onto the BlackBerry.”

Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett

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