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Forget choice: 50% of firms will demand you BYOD by 2017

Are we going to have to rent our own office space next?

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When you are as bombarded by BYOD good-news stories as El Reg is these days, the central marketing message that emerges is it's all about "freedom of choice." Not for long, it seems, if the Gartner's analysts are correct: they forecast that half of all companies will enforce "choice" as a condition of employment.

The biggest adopters of BYOD will be mid-sized and large companies in the $500m to $5bn in revenue range with 2,500 to 5,000 employees, the analyst house predicts. But smaller companies starting-up are also big adopters, using smartphones, laptops, and wireless to save on building a dedicated network. This combination, along with government adoption, will drive BYOD into 38 percent of firms in 2016 and fully half a year later.

"BYOD strategies are the most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in business in decades," said David Willis, distinguished analyst at Gartner in a statement. "The benefits of BYOD include creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction, and reducing or avoiding costs."

It's that latter fact that's behind the huge popularity of BYOD with corporate bean-counters, although there's plenty of data showing the resultant security risks and support costs make it a false economy at times. There are a lot of companies out there claiming to offer the perfect BYOD security and/or support, but none make a bullet-proof case.

Nevertheless, half of the firms Gartner talked to rated themselves as having a high level of corporate data security on mobile devices – although El Reg wonders how many front-line IT admins agree. Willis said that the maturity of the market in BYOD administration tools should solve any nagging problems – so it's up to IT managers to sort it out.

"It is essential that IT specify which platforms will be supported and how; what service levels a user should expect; what the user's own responsibilities and risks are; who qualifies; and that IT provides guidelines for employees purchasing a personal device for use at work, such as minimum requirements for operating systems," he suggests.

There's also the CEO factor to consider in BYOD's popularity. After the iPhone and iPad kicked off, a lot of IT staff started getting support calls from top management wanting to know why they couldn't open an Excel spreadsheet on their shiny new Jobsian fondleslab.

With the top brass and the bean-counters sold on the concept, BYOD has become something IT must sort out, it seems, and something the rest of us will have to pay for whether we like it or not. The days of the corporate-issue smartphone could be numbered in the long term, and it's going to be up to you to provide your own tools, Willis states.

"The enterprise should subsidize only the service plan on a smartphone," he said. "What happens if you buy a device for an employee and they leave the job a month later? How are you going to settle up? Better to keep it simple. The employee owns the device, and the company helps to cover usage costs."

That might fly well with the bean-counters, but it's going to be a bit cheeky to ask workers to pay for their own tools in this hack's opinion. That next – desk-rental and per-square toilet roll charges? ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

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