Smartphones and tablets are what make many small businesses tick. Modern mobile devices are portable enough for a daily commute and powerful enough to keep your employees productive from anywhere. For many small businesses and startups, these devices are practically indispensable. So should small business owners be the ones to buy iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones or BlackBerrys for their employees? Or should your employees bring their own?
For decades, companies have usually provided a desktop computer for each employee if the job called for it. But as personal computing devices become more and more mobile — not to mention numerous — small business owners are faced with tough new questions. Shelling out for company-owned devices may be the most secure option, but it can be expensive — and, counterintuitively, could even dampen morale.
Here are three reasons to adopt a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model for your business — and three reasons to stay far away from BYOD.
Your business should go BYOD because:
1. It’s cheaper
Smartphones and tablets are not cheap. Regardless of how many employees you have, these devices might not fit into your business’s budget. And the hardware costs are just the beginning: don’t forget to factor in the cost of a data plan for each device. Prices vary widely between devices and carriers, but providing a Web-connected cellphone or tablet could cost you $1,000 or more for each employee. Besides, most of your employees probably already own at least a smartphone — and if they don’t, they’re likely to be in the market for one soon.
2. Employees want BYOD
When it comes to mobile technology, most workers have strong brand preferences, be it iOS, Android or otherwise. Those employees are most content when they can work using their favorite devices, applications and Web tools, instead of ones hand-picked by their employer. And working from your own smartphone or tablet is often simply easier, since there’s no need to juggle multiple devices or partition mobile activities. That translates into happier, more productive employees. And because workers will almost always have their personal devices on hand, they can be ready to work at a moment’s notice.
3. You’re busy
Let’s face it: You’re busy, and your small business isn’t likely to have an IT department on hand to manage a fleet of cellphones and tablets. And there’s a lot to manage beyond picking the right devices and juggling payment plans. You could spend a lot of time micromanaging which apps your employees use for functions like reading and responding to company email. And if a company-owned device breaks down, you’ll be the one tasked with fixing it. By going BYOD, you leave those decisions in their hands, letting you stay focused on daily business operations.
Your business should stick to company-owned devices because:
1. It’s (much) more secure
Letting your employees work on an unsecured personal device is risky business — especially when it’s a device that’s so easy to lose. Even when using devices and apps that hold sensitive company data, employees are likely to use weak passwords — or no passwords at all. And if an employee accidentally sends private client data to a personal contact, your business is on the hook. By managing company-owned devices, you can control which applications your employees use — and how. You can also retain the option to wipe company devices — even remotely — or revoke access to company accounts at any time. All else aside, legal liability is the No. 1 reason to steer clear of BYOD policies.
2. You own the numbers
Letting employees use their own phones has its perks, but what do you do when an employee leaves? Shelling out for company-owned devices means you own more than just the phones — you also own the corresponding phone numbers. That can save you from a lot of headaches — and keep you from missing out on business if a client tries to contact your company through a former employee. Owning all phone numbers associated with your company will also help your next employee get right to work without any hiccups and avoid lost productivity.
3. Your employees really need them
The majority of Americans have smartphones, but the pocket-size computers are far from ubiquitous. If you depend on your employees to respond to that email from wherever they are, buying them a phone might be the best option. Employees can’t be expected to shell out for an expensive phone or tablet — not to mention foot the bill for a data plan. Biting the bullet on company-owned phones isn’t just secure and practical for small businesses; it might also be the only way to ensure that every employee can stay connected and productive when they’re away from the office.
Ultimately, this choice comes down to the needs of your individual business. Not every employee needs to stay connected to work through a smartphone or tablet. But when they do, there are very good reasons for small business owners to buy and maintain their own devices. On the other hand, if your business is very small, or if employees rarely handle sensitive company data, the flexibility and cost-savings of a BYOD policy might be too good to ignore.