Comment: Making the Journey from BYOD to BYOPC

Making the Journey from BYOD to BYOPC
Making the Journey from BYOD to BYOPC

If you look at the latest data from analyst firm IDC, it is clear that the dominance of the traditional PC is waning. The number of PCs sold during Q4 2012 was still an impressive 89 million units, but the volume has slipped 6.4% in the last year and the data suggests a continual decline. Nevertheless, the number of computing devices is growing at the fastest rate in history as sales of smartphones and tablets skyrocket.

Not only are mobile devices challenging PCs in terms of numbers but also in usage. Content creators and reviewers previously needed a fully featured PC to work on spreadsheets or interact with line-of-business applications. However, the newest generation of mobile devices seamlessly converts from laptop to tablet, and software developers are creating fully functioned mobile apps along with useable interfaces for critical enterprise applications. These ‘PCs in your pocket’ allow for more flexible work patterns and offer the promise of increased business productivity, yet they create new challenges for IT managers responsible for securing sensitive data and meeting compliance regulations.

Securing Mobile IT

When users become more mobile they look for ways to collaborate and often turn to consumer file sharing tools without IT oversight. Take, for example, the scenario when a member of staff leaves an organization – voluntarily or otherwise. Without centralized control and visibility, the IT department will struggle to remove access from collaborative work areas or shared file repositories.

Although ad-hoc collaboration may be easy for users to self-provision, public services like Dropbox or Zoho don’t have the management features or integration with enterprise content management platforms that many organizations mandate. Also, cloud-based storage may well breach internal policies or force a rethink around regulatory requirements concerning where and how data is stored. For example, a UK company with an American subsidiary can share personally identifiable user data with its US counterpart under the Safe Harbor agreement. Keep in mind, once this data is in a US data center, it is eligible for inspection by the US authorities under the USA Patriot Act.

Mobile users also tend to become reliant on local device data storage for working on critical documents when network connectivity is unavailable (i.e., when they are on the train or a plane). So, in many cases, the swanky smartphone or tablet contains critical company data that, if lost or stolen, could lead to a highly embarrassing disclosure – or worse, a breach of critical enterprise systems.

The security issues related to data sovereignty and storage of sensitive information locally on mobile devices are further complicated by device ownership issues. The company-issued desktop PC – on the company desk, in the company office – is clearly the company’s property, and any application or data within is under the control of the issuing organization and nominally the IT department. But what happens to the data and apps on the personal iPhone of the sales director who has decided to leave and work for a rival?

Best Practice across All Platforms

The situation around bring your own device (BYOD) is complex, but best practice suggests the same principles that an IT security department applies to its owned hardware needs to be applied to those owned by the employee. Today many organizations are turning to enterprise-grade secure mobile file-sharing solutions. These are typically designed for policy-driven access and can be deployed either in the cloud, at local sites or through a hybrid of both. Another key advantage of enterprise-grade solutions is the ability to create an audit trail and change access control relatively quickly (e.g., a new regulation requires data to be held in an encrypted format or moved out of a particular country).

Another issue that enterprise secure mobile file sharing helps address is cross-platform support. Although Apple is the clear poster child for tablets, sales of Android devices have overtaken iOS, and new devices from Microsoft and BlackBerry are making their way into employees’ pockets. By making file sharing and collaboration a service-based activity – managed by the IT department – users don’t have to worry about which device they use, only that they have an authorized account. This makes the service transparent and less cumbersome to support but allows the business to both define and enforce data retention policies.

Final Thoughts

BYOD has taken many companies by surprise and meeting the demands for this has not been easy. The natural progression could be that the more innovative and forward-thinking companies will actually get rid of the corporate-owned PC and mobile devices altogether and let users bring in whatever device they want. 

Companies that choose an enterprise file sharing platform will be well placed to move toward this ‘any device’ ethos. Others that fail to consider a coherent strategy will be forced to play catch up, or rush ahead with policies that contain security or compliance risks. We're not quite at BYOPC just yet, but whereas five years ago you would have been laughed out of the office, now it's a very real possibility and the question is: Are you prepared?

IT managers need to start thinking about the long-term impact of mobility and assess the potential risks of inactivity. As mobile devices become as powerful as their PC cousins, the pressure to enable them for more business processes will increase. The advantages of a more productive workforce and potentially lower costs are considerable, but how you go about mobilizing and securing enterprise content requires careful consideration.

Accellion, Inc is exhibiting at Infosecurity Europe 2013, the No. 1 industry event in Europe held April 23–25, 2013, at Earl’s Court, London. The event provides an unrivaled free education program, exhibitors showcasing new and emerging technologies and offers practical and professional expertise. Visit the Infosecurity Europe website for further information.


Yorgen H. Edholm is president and CEO at secure mobile file sharing company Accellion, and he is a Silicon Valley veteran with 25 years of enterprise software expertise. Edholm co-founded Brio Technology and during 12 years as CEO, took the company public and grew it to $150 million in revenues with over 700 employees and a customer base of over 5,000 organizations. In addition, he was president and CEO of DecisionPoint Applications, an Analytical Applications company. Edholm earned an MBA from the Stockholm School of Economics and a master’s in engineering physics from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Trained as a concert violinist, Edholm studied with Ivan Galamian, and has performed in Carnegie Hall (2005).

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