Have you heard of BYOD? It stands for "bring your own device," and it refers to employees using their personal smartphones, tablets and laptops for work. Research firm Gartner estimates that 90 percent of businesses will adopt these policies in some form by 2017. Small businesses that implement a bring-your-own-device policy can save on the costs of providing mobile devices for their staff, but it's important to consider the potential costs of allowing personal devices, too.

Big Benefits of BYOD

Saving money is seen as a big benefit of the bring-your-own-device movement. U.S. companies may save as much as $350 per employee per year if staff has full access to company information on their personal devices, according to a 2013 report by the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group. Businesses save on device costs and, in many cases, the cost of wireless contracts. There's little or no training required because employees use their preferred personal devices. Additional benefits include increased employee happiness and productivity from using their own devices.

Considerations for Small Businesses

If you're thinking about implementing a BYOD policy, consider the following:

  1. Employees may ask that their company reimburse the cost of their device and wireless contract. Depending on your BYOD policy and the wireless contracts of each staff member, this could result in higher expenses. It can also make additional work for your accounting staff, ultimately adding to overall business costs.
  2. If your business provides the wireless service contract for your staff but doesn't provide the devices, you could see costs rise. Bulk smartphone purchases for employees may come with a heavily discounted service contract, but if you don't need to bulk buy, your business may end up paying more each month for wireless service.
  3. When employees use their own devices, IT personnel have to input and manage business information, employee identification details and other business data into each device individually, adding to work hours and business costs.
  4. Different employees may have different device brands and operating systems (iPhone®, Android™, etc.), so your programs must be versatile across multiple platforms.
  5. One of the biggest potential costs is a compromise to security. It's more difficult to keep your business information private when it's accessible on employees' personal devices or through an app.

Is BYOD Worth It for a Small or Middle Market Business?

With little formal research to review and sparse statistics on smaller business employees using their own devices at work, determining whether you'll save money requires some work. Compare initial service costs and contract investments for staff against the costs of onboarding each device — you may want to consult an IT professional for the latter — along with the costs of processing expense reports, paying monthly expenses, ramping up cybersecurity and potential damage from a security breach.

Your company may realize more or less cost savings than the average U.S. business. Only you can decide, after examining the above factors, whether BYOD is worth it.

Tags: bring your own device Cost Management