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What is BYOD and why it's important

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Bring Your Own Device, more commonly known as BYOD, is an approach to end-user computing that involves the support — and encouragement — of an organization’s end-users accessing key managed IT resources on their own personal devices.

This page will look at why BYOD is important, which sectors will benefit, and what it takes to put in place a BYOD policy for your organization.


What is BYOD?

Simply put, BYOD is a way for an organization’s IT department to give their end-users access to key resources. That might include IT services, such as:

  • licensed software apps
  • cloud data/storage platforms
  • network connectivity
  • corporate communication systems
  • in-house developed applications
  • identity and SSO services

BYOD has been a hot topic in end-user computing and IT for about a decade now, following the popularity and ever-decreasing costs of personal devices, and the increasing demands for consumer mobility; first laptops, followed by mobile and tablet devices.

It’s a concept that spans industries and is increasingly prevalent in today’s corporate, public sector, healthcare and educational organizations alike.


Why is BYOD important?

Students using devices to take notes in a lecture

Implementing a BYOD policy is now at the forefront of most IT leaders’ priorities because of the following reasons:

Expectation from users — Now more than ever there’s an expectation that ‘I can bring my personal device [computer or mobile] to work and access the key IT resources I need on it to be able to get my work done’.

Prevalence of devices — The ubiquity of mobile devices and their use in the home and on-the-go has now extended to the workplace. And often this is happening regardless of whether corporate IT supports, encourages or even disallows it.

Security — Without a coherent BYOD policy, IT risks facing security vulnerabilities. Research suggests that employees will use their own to get work done even if their organization doesn’t implement a BYOD policy. Implementing BYOD removes the threat from ‘rogue IT’.

Productivity — If end-users can’t find the resources and tools they need when they need them, on any device, student/employee productivity will suffer.

The proliferation of consumer-based devices and ‘on-demand’ services has led to a widespread change in attitudes when it comes to people using IT at work or at university. End-users now expect to be able to use their own devices, and IT needs to facilitate that behavior.


Learn more about BYOD in higher education

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Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a hot topic in Higher Ed. How do you enable a BYOD policy when it comes to delivering software to students across campus?

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What are the benefits of BYOD?

To organizations that embrace and encourage the trend with a full BYOD policy, there’s a wide variety of benefits to be taken advantage of, both for the IT department and the end-users. The days of corporate IT providing managed desktop-type computer devices are dwindling.

Today’s workforce and IT users demand increased:

  • mobility — from ‘working from home’ to ‘working on the move’
  • flexibility — to work at any time, not restricted to set devices or locations
  • variety — use of multitude of device types like tablets, laptops, phones

This is apparent throughout the corporate, Higher Ed and public sector industries. The wider benefits vary largely by industry and the use case for BYOD:

BYOD in business:

Productivity gains — Bring your own device is widely implemented in a business setting to take advantage of the employee productivity gains that come from giving staff access to key IT resources and applications on-demand, on any device.

Job/recruitment — A BYOD policy in a business environment also enables the business to stay competitive in the job/recruitment marketplace by being able to offer ‘work from home’ initiatives, or for the even more adventurous 21st century tech companies, ‘work from anywhere on the planet at any time’!

The benefits for BYOD for businesses centers around two key concepts:

  1. ROI — does implementing a BYOD policy demonstrate value to the business?
  2. IT Security — does implementing a BYOD policy reduce the risk around cyber-attacks or vulnerabilities?

ROI, in this context, is less about cost savings but rather it’s measured by the first benefit we described:

  • employee satisfaction
  • productivity
  • loyalty

If your employees already have their own devices that are ready to use — most of which are mobile and they keep with them at all times — then enabling the access of organization-provisioned resources on those devices will see businesses see huge gains in:

  • productivity
  • time-to-work

Get your employees up and running faster and get them doing their job quicker, without IT getting in the way, and see the output of your workforce increase massively.

Secure BYOD — Although employee satisfaction and productivity are huge advantages, ‘secure BYOD’ is an equally important benefit to businesses looking to thrive from bring your own device.

Although it may sound like an alien concept, a BYOD policy will:

  • protect against key security vulnerabilities
  • reduce the chances of opening organizations up to further threats

BYOD is inevitable and unstoppable

Your users want to and will use their own devices to access work resources. And if that’s blocked from happening, they’ll find ways to do it as a workaround, such as downloading their own software or not being on the latest OS. This could mean malicious applications and known security threats, respectively.

BYOD in healthcare:

If you read any of the prominent online end-user computing blogs, you’ll soon find that BYOD is even more prolific in the healthcare industries than it is in business. More and more healthcare organizations are taking advantage of the benefits that come with a ‘bring your own device’ policy. Hospitals or similar bodies are making it increasingly easy for users from both sides of the organization to access key resources, in terms of:

  • administration
  • clinical functions

BYOD has grown in healthcare for entirely different reasons to its growth in business. Within a healthcare environment, for example, the cost of distributing hospital-managed computing devices is very high. Delivering a managed desktop or device to the entire workforce within just a single hospital alone is a huge overhead and needs an extensive IT provision to support it. When you combine multiple hospitals or regional healthcare groups, it’s even more of a challenge!

A doctor using a device in a hospital

BYOD has helped to alleviate some of that cost and delivers ROI within this industry. It has achieved this by:

  • enabling physicians or other professionals to access specialist data or resources on any device, meaning hospitals spend less money on managed devices
  • allowing access by specialist consultants to key data from remote locations that are not on hospital premises, providing a much better experience (“quality of service”) for patients

Although the second point may sound like a risk to patient data, it is in fact necessary when it comes to sharing medical advice between multiple healthcare organizations.

However, these bring their own series of challenges:

  1. Delivering software to those devices?
  2. Hardware cycles for managed devices
  3. Upgrades
  4. New operating systems… the list goes on!

If you combine increased access with the need for 24-hour response, BYOD becomes a necessity. In fact, BYOD in healthcare can arguably have a bigger impact than any other industry, as it has the potential to save lives and improve the health of millions of people, worldwide.

BYOD in Higher Education:

The higher education IT environment is one of the most interesting use cases for BYOD. Indeed, the setup of IT within universities and colleges — and schools — is extremely complex, so much so that BYOD can provide a wide range of benefits.

A professor delivering a lecture

The complexity of this environment stems from the nature of Higher Ed, namely:

  • many universities in North America can have up to 70,000 students
  • each student is often studying a wide variety of subjects
  • multiple subjects mean a wide variety of computing resources such as software apps
  • students are faced with a large number of both managed machines (in the form of campus labs) and BYO devices (students bringing their own laptops to university)

This is also compounded by the:

  • variety of types of device
  • different operating systems (Windows, Mac, Chromebooks etc.)
  • fast turnover of the user base (1/3 of the student population leaves every single year to be replaced by a new intake of students!)

Taking all these factors into account, this makes for a very difficult-to-support IT environment.

As you can imagine, with that environment comes a wide variety of challenges, no more so when it comes to delivering key IT resources to managed devices across campus; and sometimes across multiple campuses. If we take delivering software to end-user devices as an example, how do you deliver all those academic applications to any managed device the university owns? Well, doing just that is very difficult, and usually requires a multi-million-dollar VDI investment (virtual desktops) to satisfy all the student demands.

That is, however, without the advent of BYOD in Higher Ed!

It’s thought that more than 85% of students bring their own laptop or tablet device to university when they start their course. With that, they expect to be able to just use their own device to do what they need to do.

Today’s student population are so used to ‘on-demand’ access to everything they need, when they need it, that BYOD is no longer just an option or a luxury in this industry, it’s a necessity!

A women using her device outside

There’s good reason that ‘enabling BYOD’ is a key strategic IT initiative for 95% of universities across Europe and North America. CIOs and IT decision-makers from higher education institutions across both continents see BYOD as an enabler for increased IT efficiency and improved student outcomes, all while meeting the university’s or college’s long-term business goals, including:

  • attracting and retaining more students
  • increasing the student experience
  • providing equitable access to academic resources
  • increasing student survey and feedback scores

But thankfully, BYOD brings about lots of benefits to Higher Ed institutions from an IT perspective, such as:

  • alleviating the pressure on backend or server infrastructure by taking advantage of the computing power of student-owned devices; devices which are invariably high-spec and tech-heavy monsters!
  • reducing the need for investment in backend systems — this is achieved by running academic application and resources on the end-device, rather than on a virtualized desktop infrastructure
  • increased spending on what students need and want — money saved from spending on the backend can be used to allow students access to all their apps on any device, anywhere and anytime

The benefits also extend to the students themselves. Enabling BYOD means students get the flexibility and mobility they expect. They can work from anywhere and anytime they want, for example:

  • with friends at home
  • in a coffee shop
  • in the middle of the night
  • while away from campus

That’s all made possible by BYOD, and by freeing key academic resources — such as software applications — from set labs or on-campus locations.

Students hate having to go to a certain place at a set time just to get access to a single application. By using EdTech to enable a BYOD policy, you can improve student outcomes by delivering resources on-demand to student-owned devices. It’s a win-win situation for all involved; it costs IT less in time and money, and students get the flexibility they crave. Any academic application, any device, anywhere, anytime.


Arrange a demo of AppsAnywhere BYOD

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Arrange a demonstration of AppsAnywhere, how it works and what it's capable of. There will be as much time as you need during the demonstration to pose your questions on BYOD and how AppsAnywhere can slot into your university's software delivery systems and processes.

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Pros and cons of implementing a BYOD policy

A set of scales with a sum of money on one side and mobile devices on the other

There’s often lively debate amongst both IT and business professionals about whether a BYOD policy can benefit organizations. Many business leaders often just follow ‘legacy’ working styles; the 9-5, in-the-office approach that sees people working from a bricks-and-mortar establishment on a set device at set times. This is, after all, the way we’ve worked for decades, and is naturally what most businesses are comfortable with.

The biggest blocker to BYOD is this attitude itself, often stemming from businesses not trusting that work will get done if employees can work from anywhere.

IT leaders, on the other hand, see advances in technology — which BYOD can take advantage of — as a way to improve how people get their work done, as well as a way of improving organizational efficiency and IT strategy.

If you do your research, you’ll likely come across both pros and cons to implementing a BYOD policy. We’ve put these together in the below table to give you an overview of everything you need to consider when implementing a BYOD policy.

Pros of BYOD policies

Cons of BYOD policies

Productivity gains from end-users due to less time being spent looking for IT resources

Businesses often worry that employees don’t do as much work when they’re not in the office…

Fewer overheads and less cost because IT doesn’t need to maintain as many managed devices, and can take advantage of high-powered consumer devices instead

Security is usually cited as the key downside to BYOD. Though when properly managed with the right solutions, BYOD doesn’t present any more of a threat than on-site access

Enabling flexible or remote working, so work can get done anywhere, anytime

Challenges around delivering key resources – such as software – to BYO devices. Many organizations think BYOD requires an expensive VDI solution to provide access to those resources

Your end-users (students or employees) are more empowered to get work done. BYOD gives them the access they expect to get their work done

Organizations, mainly businesses, need to create, implement and maintain corporate guidelines around BYOD access – what is and isn’t allowed

BYOD is a key perk at any university or job. In Higher Ed, students don’t need to go to campus labs to get work done, they can do it at home

Sometimes requires a form of MDM (Mobile Device Management) solution to implement BYOD

Onboarding new students or new starters is easier, as they can get access to everything on their own device more easily. Same goes for leavers – access can be easily revoked

 

The student experience is vastly improved by letting them access key IT resources on their own device, anywhere, anytime. Student outcomes are therefore also improved!

 

Continuity of service can be guaranteed in the event or unforeseen problems. Students and employees can continue to get their work done without relying on on-site/on-campus devices

 

Reduce the IT support overhead relating to software access or device configuration

 


BYOD solutions

For most organizations, putting in place a BYOD policy does require additional technology or solution to facilitate end-users (employees, students etc.) bringing their own device and getting access to managed IT resources.

End-User Computing

BYOD, along with the technological solutions that enable it, usually fall within the IT category of ‘End-User Computing’ (EUC); giving your end-users access to all the resources they’d expect on a managed, on-site device. Typically, that includes:

  1. desktops
  2. applications
  3. data and file storage
  4. intranet sites
  5. single-sign-on solutions

For the enterprise and large organizations, ‘VDI solutions’ are often the first thing they consider using to deliver those managed IT resources, all within a single ‘wrapper’ — whether it’s a desktop, applications or files.

VDI solutions (desktop virtualization)

VDI solutions (often known as virtual desktop solutions) provide a way for any type of remote device to access a consistent desktop from anywhere, anytime. IT teams provision access to these virtual desktops, and choose which resources are and aren’t available to which end-users.

For these solutions to work, they require extensive amounts of investment in backend infrastructure, because BYOD users are essentially accessing a desktop that’s hosted somewhere else.

Their own device basically becomes a window through which they access another desktop.

Sounds complicated? Well, to some extent, the technology behind it is very complicated and requires specialist IT teams to maintain it.

But from an end-user perspective, it’s quite simple. They log onto the virtual desktop, regardless of whether they’re on Windows, Mac or mobile devices, and they get a consistent portal to access everything they need.

There are problems with that approach though, especially in Higher Ed, because the user experience of accessing applications in particular in that way is subpar. That’s because the application is running on a server elsewhere (either on-premise or in the Cloud), and then ‘pixel streaming’ to their end device.

Problems are as follows:

  • certain applications will run slowly
  • student or employee will experience ‘lag’
  • VDI solutions are also difficult to scale — when you increase the number of students or employees, you have to invest in new backend infrastructure to support all those additional users.

Not ideal for growing business or Higher Ed institutions with thousands upon tens of thousands of students all accessing the same virtual desktop!

Virtual applications (application virtualization)

A person using a mobile device, with a laptop on his lap

The alternative it to use virtual applications, instead of virtual desktops. These technologies deliver the application directly to the end device, where it runs locally as if it were installed.

Virtual applications take advantage of the user’s device – which invariably is a high-powered monster of a machine!

The benefits of this is that the process requires:

  • minimal server infrastructure
  • specialist IT skills

The key thing to both of these solutions is providing a clear and consistent way to get access to software or desktops, regardless of what device type is being used, where or when. By signposting students or end-users to a single point of access – a portal or a platform – you can be sure they know exactly where to get the IT resources they need to get their work done, while reducing security threats and increasing productivity