The evolution of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has been as profound as it has been rapid. It represents the most visible sign that the boundaries between personal life and work life are blurring, says Perry Hutton, Regional Director – Africa at Fortinet.

At the very heart of this evolution is the ability to access enterprise networks from anywhere, anytime. The range of tools which enable this constant connectivity are becoming more powerful all the time, with laptops, tablets and smartphones allowing access to a range of communications and business applications.

The much-heralded benefit of BYOD is greater productivity. However, recent research has suggested that it may actually be the great myth of BYOD and the reality is that BYOD in practice poses new challenges that may outweigh the benefits, if it is not properly addressed by the organisation.

A worldwide survey commissioned by Fortinet – a world leader in high performance network security. The survey, conducted in 15 countries, focused on graduate twenty-something employees. This group represents the first generation to enter the workplace with an understanding and expectation of own-device use. They also represent tomorrow’s influencers and decision makers.

The survey findings will concern both network managers responsible for security, as well as senior management ultimately responsible for the strategic decision about the degree to which the business embraces BYOD.

Crucially, within this younger employee group, BYOD is predominantly considered a right rather than a privilege, with over half (55%) of people sharing an expectation that they should be allowed to use their own devices in the workplace or for work purposes. With this expectation comes the very real risk that employees feel so strongly they will consider ignoring company policy banning the use of own devices.

More than a third (36%) of people polled admitted that they have, or would contravene such a policy. However, this latter statistic, worrying though it is, has noticeable geographic differences with India being the most risk-laden territory. An astonishing 66% of survey respondents from India admitted that they are willing to contravene policy.

The survey casts doubt on the idea of BYOD leading to greater productivity by revealing the real reason people want to use their own devices. Only 26% of people in this age group cite efficiency as the reason they want to use their own devices, while 33% admit that the main reason is so they have access to their favourite applications.

But with personal applications so close to hand, the risks to the business must surely include distraction and time wasting. To support this assumption, 46% of people polled acknowledge time wasting as the greatest threat to the organisation, with 42% citing greater exposure to malicious IT and theft or loss of confidential data.

Yet, even with this widespread understanding of the downsides to BYOD, only 27% believe the risks outweigh the benefits for their organisation.
Two thirds (66%) of people polled considered themselves to be ultimately responsible for security on their own devices, with only 22% putting the burden of responsibility with the organisation.

This would suggest that, while the owners are more than happy to use their own devices in the work environment, they might be highly resistant to any suggestion that the organisation puts any limits on usage or interference with the device to install security measures.

The full extent of the delicate balancing act facing the organisation is finally revealed with the statistic that nearly one-in-five people would consider holding back their own devices if they felt that the organisation’s security systems were so vulnerable as to pose a real risk to their own personal data.

BYOD is here to stay. While the Fortinet survey balances the widely held belief that BYOD is mostly beneficial to business by highlighting some key security challenges, it also shows that organisations must address the issue at the earliest stage.

The reality is that technology consumerisation is invading the workplace, but the organisation cannot afford to simply stand back and let users have their way.