Is BYOD really taking the enterprise by storm?

The enterprise is in the grip of a BYOD revolution, with workers shunning corporate IT and using personal devices instead. Or are they?

A day rarely passes in the IT industry without someone speaking out about the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) “phenomenon” that’s apparently taking the enterprise by storm. Such conversations usually go hand-in-hand with talk about the increased pressure this is putting on the humble CIO and IT departments.

If we take this rhetoric at face value, one might assume that UK plc is now being exclusively run on workers’ personal devices, while their IT department-issued kit sits gathering dust.

I can safely say the level of activity and commitment to BYOD is grossly exaggerated.

But does this (admittedly exaggerated) scene bear any resemblance to what’s really going on in the enterprise today, or is the popularity of BYOD being overstated by vendors with vested interests?

Pierre Hall, solutions director of workplace and software at IT services giant Computacenter, said he’s seen little to suggest we’re in the grips of a widespread BYOD revolution.

“There is a lot of talk about this wholesale march towards IT not giving employees technology and then allowing them to pick their own and bring that into the workplace instead, but I don’t see it taking place in UK enterprises particularly strongly,” Hall told IT Pro.

“I’m not refuting that there is a drive to let people accommodate their own technology [in the workplace], but [there is no] wholesale replacement strategy going on at the moment.”

Dale Vile, research director at analyst Freeform Dynamics, backed Hall’s view and described BYOD as something everyone’s talking about, but very few are actually doing.

“I can safely say the level of activity and commitment to BYOD is grossly exaggerated, but it is an extremely difficult area to research,” he told IT Pro.

“No one in a leadership role wants to look like a Neanderthal, so the knee-jerk responses to [questions about] BYOD are invariably positive.

“What’s clear, though, is most IT and business leaders haven’t got it worked out yet,” Vile added.

Everybody’s talking

BYOD is often cited as a difficult trend to track because adopters operate under the radar of IT, but Vile’s not so sure how true that actually is.

“Most [enterprise IT departments] have a pretty good idea of what is connecting to the network...as an increasing number have access control layers that track and validate all network connections and apply policy depending on the user, the device and the network they are coming in over,” he explained.

“Even in a less proactively managed environment, it isn’t hard to track,” Vile added.

Even so, that doesn’t mean people aren’t using personal devices for work purposes, argued Sam Routledge, solutions director at Marlow-based IT reseller Softcat.

“Whether or not companies are making provisions for this stuff or have a BYOD policy in place, it doesn’t matter, because you can bet your bottom dollar people are already using their own devices to connect to corporate networks,” he told IT Pro.

“Unless you’re the most locked down organisation out there, they will find a way.”

And when they do, they mainly use their devices to access company email accounts or files sharing sites, he claimed.

“People want access to something resembling a work environment outside of business hours and locations...that’s not restricted to any particular department or type of worker,” said Routledge.

“They want to be able to access email 24/7 and increasingly want to access files and folders on any device, which is evidenced by the prevalence of things like Dropbox.”