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What 'hidden' BYOD costs should organizations consider?

While a BYOD program may, at first, seem like an easy cost-savings initiative, an organization that hasn't set usage policies and prepared its network may face unexpected costs.

At first, enterprises may see a BYOD program as a cost-savings strategy, since employees bear the expense of the mobile devices they use at work, but this only addresses part of the broader BYOD equation. Add-on BYOD costs will only be "hidden" if you haven't thought things through -- and with BYOD, there's a lot to consider.

First, the network must be able to support this new traffic, and do so in a secure manner. This is essential for protecting corporate data and work-related voice and video traffic on these devices. Both are real-time modes, and whether users are conferencing or in one-to-one sessions, the network must have enough bandwidth and management tools to prioritize this traffic. If a BYOD program is going to be large-scale, IT may need to invest in some network upgrades or consider hosted or managed options.

With end users, several hidden BYOD costs could lurk. BYOD is a two-way street, and usage policies need to be established for employees. These policies take time and money to develop, implement and monitor.

If employees ignore those policies, the company could see a loss of worker productivity and a drain on IT resources from excessive use of personal activities on their devices. This isn't restricted to what they do in the office -- this applies equally well when working remotely and during off hours when users tap into the network.

Over time, other hidden BYOD costs -- hard costs -- will emerge as employees require software updates and handset upgrades. IT may not have enough resources on hand to provide timely updates of business software across multiple mobile operating systems. Not only must these updates propagate successfully for all devices, but IT will likely need to devote help desk resources specific to these needs.

The same holds true when employees want to upgrade devices or switch to another vendor. At that point, the business may need to bear some or all of the cost, depending on how its BYOD program is structured.

Finally, there is the ongoing cost of mobile plans. There is legal precedent for employers to cover BYOD costs for work-related purposes and if the business is not yet doing this, it will certainly become part of the equation. This also touches on the messy topic of telecom expense management and some careful economic analysis will be needed to determine a fair balance of cost sharing for mobile data plans between employees and the employer.

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