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How a BYOD
policy can
make or break
your network

Author: Sue Poremba

A bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy presents challenges for organizations—and solving those challenges is important.  As companies expand remote work options and employees use personal devices to make up for a lack of available corporate-owned devices, there is a pressing need for a solid BYOD policy.

A BYOD policy can help businesses effectively manage and secure remote work, but user authentication, cyber risk monitoring and network maintenance are critical parts of its success. To formulate your personal device strategy, your IT department must already have a solid BYOD network design in place—one that includes secure methods of access for a variety of devices and one that's secured wired or wireless network remote access through a virtual private network or a layered security mechanism.

Once you determine the security of your BYOD network design, it is time to create a solid strategy for your remote workers.

What is a BYOD policy?

A BYOD policy governs how your employees' personally owned devices connect to your corporate network and access your company data. It has no inherent set rules—it can and should support whatever works best for your organizations—but it should outline the types of devices used and the basics of the approval process for BYOD usage so that IT and security teams can watch for unauthorized connections and potential cyber threats.

A strong BYOD policy is especially important in environments where multiple people are sharing a device, which opens the door to increased risks to the network and its data. Authorized devices should look to meet certain security standards, too, such as proof of firewalls, use of encryption for data transmission and storage, updated security, fully patched software, secure passwords and approved apps and cloud services.

Network considerations

Your BYOD network design strategy will likely include rules you've not previously considered. For example, does a home router or an Internet of Things device fall under the BYOD umbrella? If so, what steps should be taken to decrease their potential security risks? People might relax their standards with home routers, using a default password, allowing anyone visiting the home to access their Wi-Fi network or ignoring firmware patches. To bypass this security threat, organizations should either require every personal device to connect through a virtual private network; failing that, IT should be available to help remote workers set up secure router connections.

Consider setting up a guest network for any unsecured devices, such as those used by contractors and visitors who need access to your network. By segregating unauthorized personal devices from your network, you add an extra layer of security without having to restructure your network architecture. A guest network will also keep your bandwidth usage under control.

Benefits of a BYOD policy

Some organizations have looked at BYOD protocols as an unavoidable evil—if they had any at all. But with the surge in remote work, a solid BYOD network design policy keeps operations flowing, especially for small and medium-sized businesses without the resources to furnish employer-controlled devices. The benefits of a solid BYOD policy include:

  • Greater productivity. Employees feel more comfortable with their personal computers and phones, which likely means they will work more efficiently. Also, employees often upgrade their personal devices more quickly and more frequently than organizations update theirs, so they are likely already using the latest technology.
  • Cost savings. If your employees already have the devices they need to do their jobs, you will not need to provide them any hardware—and you can pass the cost savings on to hardening your BYOD security systems.
  • Flatter learning curve. People need time to adjust to new hardware and software. Letting employees use their own devices flattens that learning curve and lets them get right to work.

Building a BYOD protocol has its challenges, too, of course, mostly involving security and troubleshooting or user support. Having solid policies surrounding employee-owned devices in place, however, reduces confusion, ensures that everyone knows how to get help, and could even help you add security layers to your network. Setting strict BYOD access protocols minimizes the threat of shadow IT and mitigates potential threats from unknown users.

As remote work increases across almost every industry, a strong BYOD policy has gone from a bonus to necessity. With the right policies in place, you can free your employees to work from anywhere and still keep your network and data safe.

Fight cyber threats more effectively and efficiently with a full view of your security landscape.