Nonprofit or not, it should come as no surprise that organizations are looking to save money. How can you afford the latest technology for your employees on a budget? One solution that many businesses have been flocking to is BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. While this option can seem mutually beneficial both for budget minded organizations and gadget loving employees, the headaches involved in regulating this process aren’t always worth the rewards.

BYOD doesn’t necessarily refer to just one policy. It is a series of decisions that have to be made regarding employee use of their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops during office hours. Your organization's specific policies will have to be agreed upon, and employees will have to be briefed on the new regulations. In some situations, organizations can offer stipends for device purchase or monthly data plan payment. This strategy can save the employees money since they can also use the device at home, and saves the organization money since they don’t have to purchase computers and phones that live in the office. Naturally, how much money an organization puts toward a device will increase or decrease depending on how imperative the device is to the employee’s daily work.

If your organization uses cloud based software, BYOD can be even more appealing. Without too much tech knowhow, the employee can access to the same software and data all on a device they’re comfortable with just as easily from home, in the office, or on the go. This applies to basic applications like Google Apps and Dropbox, as well as full blown donor management systems, office productivity software, and more.

Having a device that lives in the grey area between work and home life can create some unique challenges for organizations. For example, what happens if the device is lost or stolen outside of the office? Who is held liable for replacement? And what should you do about all that sensitive data? For this reason, it becomes even more important to regularly back up your data and to have a way of wiping your data off the device remotely. Idealware has plenty of resources available on data backup, and a service like Air Watch can provide improved security, offer reports on device usage, and allow administrators to delete data.

There can also be the ever present worry of viruses and malware. While you can (and should!) be running regular antivirus scans on your office computers, you can’t be as certain that your employees are being as careful with their own devices. Make sure you have a system in place to know that your employees aren’t downloading malicious software on your organization’s device. Also, tell your employees to be careful about shared networks such as free Wi-Fi at restaurants and coffee shops, and free wireless printers in hotels. They might be safe enough for checking your Twitter feed, but dealing with sensitive, high level information on an open wireless network can be dangerous.

It may be appealing to your employees to let them choose which kind of device they want. The staff here at Idealware all use Windows based computers in the office, but many of us use Apple computers at home. Along with that, not everyone in your organization will be interested in using their own devices, so it is important to implement some form of consistency so you don’t run into problems with compatibility. For example, if you use a lot of Google applications, Android phones and tablets, and Chromebook laptops, can be a good choice to ensure the maximum ease of access. Keep in mind that since these devices lack optical drives, you cannot install your own software with a CD. If your standard office computers are Apple based, iPhones and iPads are a sensible choice, and Windows 8 phones, tablets, and computers make access across multiple devices easy as well.

Some organizations are trying to get the best of both worlds by exploring dual boot options, or even mobile phone virtualization. With these options, users can have multiple logins for their devices, one for personal use and one for business use. While having separate accounts can help in managing that fleeting home and work life balance, it will take a dedicated IT person on your staff to setup and troubleshoot this service in most cases. Multi booting operating systems can also be helpful for users who need to use a certain OS in the office, but would prefer to use another at home. Remember that while Windows and Linux operating systems can be installed on any computer, OSx cannot legally be installed on any machine unless made by Apple.

What is your organization’s BYOD policy? What personal devices are you splitting your time with? Which ones do you wish you could?

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