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BYOD trends of the past and future

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People working on their own devices around a table

BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device to give it its full name, is no new concept. In fact, it’s arguably been around since the "consumerization of IT", and the introduction of the first affordable and portable computers and devices onto the worldwide markets.

As such, BYOD first came about out of necessity, and the need to ‘deal with’ this consumerization. But as time went on, organizations (including enterprise, Higher Education, healthcare) realized that instead of just doing the bare minimum, BYOD could be embraced to bring about a wide range of benefits that comes from the workforce or end-users being able to access corporate/managed resources on their own devices including:

  • Portability
  • Ease of use
  • Productivity
  • Time-to-work
  • Flexibility

Embracing BYOD

Over the years, devices have become more and more accessible to a wider proportion of the global population with Tech giants such as Apple providing new device types including tablets and smartphones, not to mention super high-powered laptop devices .

As a result, the demand to use personal devices at work has increased at a consistent pace. And, in recent years, organizations have begun to truly embrace it as an ‘end user computing’ concept.

We’ve got first-hand experience of working with some pioneering universities who only provide managed IT resources to BYO devices, providing everything a student needs to learn, study and work on their mobile devices, rather than needing to access resources in campus labs or computing clusters.

We’ve seen an upward trend year-on-year amongst our Higher Education customers when it comes to enabling a BYOD policy. The 21st century student (and end-user in general), including Millennials and Generation Z, come to university with very different expectations than ever before. Perpetuated by consumer app stores and on-demand access to content (think: Netflix, YouTube, apps, etc.), students today bring their own laptop with them when they start their studies, and they expect universities to make the resources they need to work available on those very devices.

Today, BYOD is unstoppable in a wide range of sectors including:

  • Higher education
  • Corporate industries
  • Healthcare
  • Public sector

BYOD is now gaining an ever-stronger foothold in the world of Managed IT, as organizations look to:

  • Enforce cost-saving measures
  • Appeal to younger generations from a recruitment perspective
  • Increase employee retention and productivity

The origins of BYOD

Historically, IT and computer hardware in general, was the purview of professional organizations such as:

  • Banks
  • Corporates
  • Healthcare

The cost of maintaining a computer infrastructure was high, and computer devices were accessible to only a select few.

1980s & 90s

Throughout the 1980s and into the 90s, computers were very much a managed IT resource that was available from a set location. Users would have a one-to-one relationship with a single device (or even a many-to-one relationship with multiple staff sharing one computer). Computers were a fixed terminal that enabled staff to get key tasks done; such as word processing and creating spreadsheets.

As technology advanced throughout the 90s, with increasing computing power for less cost, the consumerization of IT began. The early mobile phones and the first iteration of smartphones that followed began to open the world’s eyes to the benefits of portability; bringing an unprecedented level of flexibility to the business world that enabled users to be remote and agile, with more control over how and when they worked.

This was a turning point for BYOD.

What was previously only available on a select few managed computers on-site, began to become more readily available in different places, whether it was across sites or on-the-go. And don’t forget, these were the days of the BlackBerry mobile phone, a device that was in the pockets of business people across the western world!

BYOD was officially here. And the ‘consumer IT’ trend only went one way. Portable devices became more and more affordable and the home desktop made way for personal laptops, which began to change the way we worked. And, by the late 90s, ‘hotdesking’ and remote working was starting to take shape.

But BYOD wasn’t entirely emphasized by the consumerization of IT alone. Savvy IT leaders and decision-makers began to realize that they could take advantage of what ‘BYO’ actually meant for them and their organization.

2000s

As things continued to progress throughout the early 2000s, CIOs and IT directors across all industries found that without enabling a BYOD policy, they were at risk of shadow or rogue IT.. Whether supported by organizations or not, people have their own devices and – whether it’s for convenience, flexibility, or they just prefer to use their own tech – they will use them for both personal and work purposes.

Throughout the latter part of the 2000s, BYOD revolved around “mobile device management” (known as MDM) solutions. The technology world understood the challenges faced by corporate IT, and software companies across the globe raced to develop solutions to help IT departments cater for these ‘rogue’ devices. MDM was born, and security was instantly less of a threat to organizations and to BYOD.

These solutions enabled IT to ‘lockdown’ or prohibit access and use of certain corporate resources, while the employee could continue to benefit from the flexibility that came with mobile devices.

This was a huge boost to the adoption of BYOD policies in the workplace. But a challenge still remained: MDM was largely only relevant to portable devices that are still managed or owned by the organization. The end device invariably must be ‘enrolled’ in the organization’s MDM policy before it can be used and, as such, the true benefits of BYOD were only available to a proportion of the user base.


Factors impacting BYOD

Over the last decade, a few things have happened to the global world of business, education, and public sectors alike, which have had a notable impact on BYOD:

The high power, low cost of laptop devices

More and more people own and use a personal laptop device that is more than capable of handling 99% of our daily tasks. That’s because the cost of those devices has continued to come down, while technological progress has continued to increase at a rapid pace.

Multiple types of device

Not only is there a greater split between Windows and Mac laptops, but we’re using more and more types of device, too. Whether it’s small or large tablets, smartphones, laptops, Chromebooks, Macbooks, or Windows Surface devices. There’s more variety in the device types on the market today than ever before. The days of IBM or Dell laptops dominating the device landscape are over, in favor of a vast estate of device types.

Global cost-cutting measures

The last decade saw many organizations, specifically in the public sector, needing to reduce IT costs. This either involved ‘hotdesking’ (and thus, allowing the organization to reduce the number of managed devices or its hardware refresh cycles) or facilitating the use of BYO devices. This was also prevalent in the Higher Education market, where universities needed to scale-down the amount of VDI or server-based technology they used, in favor of client-based computing.

Multiple, different devices on a desk

Consumer app stores

Apple and Google’s app stores – to name just two – have made us all expect to be able to access software on-demand. When we need an app at home, after a few clicks we’re able to download and use it, without a complex installation procedure or a need to put in requests from corporate IT for software access. This is starting to extend to the workplace, where employees expect things here and now.

COVID-19

Understandably, COVID-19 has thrust the world into a situation where many have had to work from home, or away from the office in general. This is the same for Higher Education, where students and staff alike must teach and study from their homes. While many corporate institutions can provide employees with managed laptop devices for home-use in the interim, this isn’t the same for Higher Education. Universities and colleges need to make resources and IT available to access on student-owned devices, anywhere and anytime.

In some capacity, all these factors have contributed to BYOD becoming what it is today; an unstoppable force in the world of corporate IT, for nearly every industry that exists.


BYOD adoption

Student working on his own device in a coffee shop

BYOD has a unique use case in Higher Education. This stems from the complexity of the IT environment at any university or college. Typically, Higher Education institutions have thousands upon tens of thousands of end-users (both students and staff).

Maintaining managed devices to service all those students is both an expensive and difficult task; think about those hardware refresh cycles, or about how you make IT resources available on as many computers as possible in many different locations across multiple campuses. It’s a difficult challenge, for sure!

While the trend for BYOD in other industries has generally been around ‘accepting BYOD’, and often reluctantly, in Higher Education it is a key IT strategy in improving:

  • Student outcomes
  • Success
  • High-quality research.

On top of that, IT departments at Higher Ed organizations have one of the most demanding customer demographics of any industry: students!

Students have increasingly high expectations of their technology experience at university, and they are increasingly familiar with and used to the flexibility and on-demand nature of consumer devices and IT services of today’s world. It’s for that reason that today’s student population are often given the term “digital natives” or “digitally literate”. In short, BYOD is a trend that is set to go only one way in Higher Education. And that’s up!

But for IT in Higher Education, BYOD can be seen as a savior to the challenges we mentioned earlier. Instead of needing to make resources available on managed devices across campus – which invariably leads to needing some form of expensive virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or complex backend server setup – with BYOD, IT can take advantage of those end-devices that students bring to university with them.

In a world where IT becomes more of a service to its internal customers (i.e. students), rather than just the provision of technology, the demand for BYOD continues to increase, and the trend of universities and colleges deploying a BYOD policy and support goes on.

According to Higher Education industry body EDUCAUSE, the “use of personally owned devices continues to grow on campuses. Schools are learning how to maneuver the balance of letting the user bring their own devices to campus for work and learning and supporting these devices while educating users about the possibilities that these devices could put university networks and information at risk.”

BYOD in secondary education

In secondary education, it is highly likely that students encounter BYOD more regularly than in higher education. Requirements for specialist software tend to be much lower and IT doesn't need to deliver anywhere near the number of software titles to end-devices. With this being the case, students coming from secondary to higher education already have experience with and an expectation for BYOD in university. They might have recently invested in a new machine to support their education prior to or specifically for enrolling in university. They don't know or care why BYOD is a much more complex endeavor in Higher Ed than it is in secondary; all they care about is being able to access all of the university software they need to complete their course. 

BYOD in the workplace

Any desk or computer-focused employment roles are likely to be able to provide machines to their employees on a  one-to-one basis. With a constant relationship with these machines and a constant need for them to be accessible, these machines might as well be BYO devices. To the end-users, the experience will feel the same. So, whether your students find employment in roles where they're provided with a personal machine, or whether they can use their personally-owned device, prior experience with BYOD policies and the technologies involved could help to give them a headstart in familiarizing themselves with professional work environments.

The benefit to employers of delivering to true BYO devices is that they can save money on hardware investment and can expect to see greater levels of productivity from their employees when working on machines they're familiar with. Due to this, it is expected that many employers will begin implementing BYO policies as either total or optional standards for their employees.


Future of BYOD

It’s no doubt that in Higher Education, BYOD is the future of on-campus and off-campus computing for both students and staff. And the same is true for BYOD across all sectors and industries. In 2019, the global BYOD market was valued at $186 billion, with predictions showing that it could reach up to $300 billion by 2022, and $430 billion within just five years (by 2025).

As expectations continue to change, IT consumerization continues to proliferate, and as connectivity continues to improve (such as wider 4G and 5G adoption), BYOD is an end-user computing concept that is widely agreed to continue its expansion in both the Higher Education and workplace environments alike.

Some interesting statistics from Forbes illustrate these BYOD trends in more detail:

  • Productivity gains:
    • Nearly two thirds of Gen Y (and 50% of employees over the age of 30) believe they are more productive and effective when using their own personal tech, rather than tech they use in their work life
    • Using portable devices saves staff nearly an hour a day
    • Using portable devices increases employee productivity by 34%
  • As of 2019, 60% of employees in the corporate world already use a smartphone for work reasons, and a further 31% want to
  • Enterprises employing BYOD policies can see an annual cost-saving of $350 per employee, per year

But the increasing trend for BYOD is being impacted by a few factors that slow its growth across the industry.

Equality of access

While BYOD does benefit large groups of students, some believe that it comes at the cost of “exacerbating inequality” amongst other students. Those who come from backgrounds or schools of a lower socioeconomic status are less likely to have had extensive use of devices and are less likely to own their own device.

And for those who do own their own device, they might still be reliant on on-campus managed hardware which is higher-powered and more able to run intensive tasks such as certain software titles, for example. The same goes for the quality of network connectivity at home, which could be a more inferior performance than campus networks.

Access to specialist resources

This concern typically comes about at institutions where technology hasn’t been correctly adopted to enable BYOD in various scenarios. This could be for very specific reasons such as access to printing resources, or faculty-based specialist software titles like AutoCAD or Adobe apps. While it will never be possible to make super-high-end lab equipment available to students at home (for example large machinery – it’s never going to be practical to do that, without VR/AR), there are many technological solutions on the market to enable students to print from their own devices, and to access their specialist software apps through university app stores or virtualization platforms.

Campus-centric computing

Perhaps the biggest barrier to BYOD in Higher Education is IT departments’ continued investment in on-campus, fixed and managed computer terminals. So long as local hardware is being provided by the university in some capacity, BYOD will continue to be under-prioritized in favor of ‘falling back’ to the traditional campus-centric approaches to end user computing.

As time goes on, and IT consumerization continues to proliferate, and students continue to have increased expectations around their use of technology at university, perhaps we’ll see fewer and fewer managed resources being provided. And, instead, we may see universities focusing on designing systems from the ground-up to support “BYO-by-default”, or “BYOD-first”.

Read more about the benefits of BYOD for Higher Ed >

BYOD Security

It’s impossible to mention BYOD without talking about the IT security risk. In fact, the first thing many an IT department will think about when they’re tasked with looking into BYOD is security.

“How can we keep our managed IT estate and networks secure, when we open everything up to un-managed, non-domain-joined personal devices? We can’t control those devices, so how can we possibly keep things as secure as they’d be if it were just on a managed, university-owned device?”

Unfortunately – for the progress of BYOD – security concerns are usually the reason BYOD policies don’t even get off the ground within organizations.

“Controlling different devices and platforms which connect across multiple networks is a potential minefield that universities are keen to avoid. There are also concerns around who takes responsibility for data loss and replacing the device in the event of it being lost, stolen or malfunctioning.”

While there are many tools and technologies available to Higher Education to make the different aspects that make up a BYOD policy more secure, security continues to slow the growth of BYOD.

BYOD is typically approached as secondary to on-campus computing, meaning that it’s a ‘bolt-on’ to existing services and technologies. And that’s where the concerns around security come from in the first place; adding BYO users into a service that already exists, with set protocols and procedures, is naturally going to cause anxiety for IT professionals; worried that the introduction of BYOD will compromise the integrity of those managed devices and services.

Slowly, this pattern is being turned on its head. Many organizations and Higher Education institutions alike are now approaching their computing paradigms with a BYOD-first approach. More organisations are designing services and IT solutions that revolve around the user first and foremost, and their preferences of using their own devices.

By approaching things in this way, with the expectation that managed IT resources will be accessed on BYO devices, Higher Ed IT will be able to design their platforms accordingly. As such, they’ll be secure and more prepared by default.


Encouraging BYOD

Using BYO devices in a cafe off-site

How does BYOD benefit students and faculty?

Students and faculty will be more familiar with their personal devices and accessing university software on those devices will be a smoother and less complex experience. This paves the way for greater productivity, higher grades, and better student retention.

BYOD gives students the flexibility to access software on their terms and on their schedules. Less time spent traveling and waiting for machines to become available means more time can be spent working and work can be done in the ways that enable their best output. Put simply, BYOD is more convenient.

How does BYOD benefit IT?

Students and faculty using their own devices means IT can reduce the amount of hardware they have to manage. This decreases the investment needed in hardware and time needed to setup machines, freeing up budget and staff time to work on key IT projects. BYOD, once implemented, has also been shown to reduce support tickets for IT as students are more familiar with their machines and how to use them and so they need support less frequently.

On-demand delivery of software using technologies such as application virtualization reduces the amount of time required to image machines (compounded with having fewer managed machines) and helps to keep image bloat to a minimum. Imaging usually takes up a lot of IT’s time and large images make for slow machines and bloated servers. A reduction in both of these things can reduce IT’s overheads significantly.

With fewer managed machines, less time and budget are needed for the purchase of operating system licenses and install of those operating systems. BYOD has the ability to greatly improve the student and user experience, enabling higher grades and student retention. Its direct influence on the commercial success of universities is very significant and increases potential revenue while reducing the amount spent by IT on software delivery.

Overview of benefits of BYOD and why it should be encouraged in higher education organizations >


The importance of BYOD

During the COVID-19 pandemic

The global health pandemic of COVID-19, and the effect that it’s had on Higher Education (e.g. campus closures, social distancing measures on campus), has accelerated the trend for BYOD in many geographic markets. Historically, BYOD was approached as an optional extra or a luxury, something that IT departments strived to achieve strategically and over the long-term.

With Coronavirus, the need for BYOD has been rapidly increased, with off-campus access to IT resources now becoming the norm, for the short-term at least. Overnight, universities have had to find innovative ways of making campus-based learning resources available not only off-campus, but on non-managed, BYO devices too.

Universities have found a plethora of innovative approaches to making the switch to online learning in a matter of months, if not days and weeks. These include using RDP solutions to make existing lab devices accessible off-campus and using hosted app and desktop solutions as an emergency fix to the challenges right now. Regardless of which technical approach universities have adopted right now, one thing for sure is that BYOD has moved up the priorities list for many CIOs and IT directors across the world.

BYOD as the norm in Higher Education

Those who had already prioritized BYOD as a student computing concept, before COVID-19 temporarily changed the entire world, have seen a more seamless transition to online and distance learning. Almost overnight, they’re able to continue supporting students off-campus and provide them with all the IT resources that they need to study at home. We’ve seen this amongst our customers across the world, too; many of which were already fully implementing BYOD and had the tools and technologies in place. And customers who had not yet approached it could see an easy path to enabling BYOD within a short period of time.

Putting the uncertainty of the future aside (i.e. when will students be back on campus, and will students still be remote throughout the rest of 2020 and into 2021), BYOD is now something that must be facilitated in some format. COVID-19 has caused many to implement a BYOD policy for the first time in their history, and for those who were already trialing BYOD, it will likely further embed BYOD in their IT strategy for years to come.

One thing’s for sure, it’ll be interesting to watch how Higher Education transitions away from the emergency BYOD that’s in place right now. Will the trend for BYOD revert to what it was prior to COVID-19, or will it accelerate amongst universities and colleges to the point where it’s a top IT priority and focus strategy?

Read more about using BYOD to deal with COVID-19 and the expectation for BYOD to continue following this >