The Hidden Dangers Of Allowing Users To Use Their Own Equipment in 2021
Posted by kevinhess Last updated 11th June 2021 reading time
It can be tempting to allow users to use their own equipment, such as their own laptops and printers, in order to do their work on.
They’ve got the equipment already. Your company doesn’t have to spend its own money buying extra laptops or monitors.
They may have their own copies of your office and collaborative software already, including versions of expensive paid software that your company doesn’t have to pay for again. Is there anything wrong with that?
It’s something we’re going to discuss in this article, so let’s take a look. If your business is considering allowing users to use their own equipment, you’ll want to know more.
What Do Your Users Need?
Depending on your business’s particular needs and the technical experience level of your users, this may be an amenable solution after all. It may or may not present an acceptable risk for your team—after all, an employee who just needs to send an email once in awhile is quite different from a user who needs to run complex or proprietary software during their workday.
Of course, many users also use email and other work-related apps on their personal mobile phone or tablets. This is an arrangement that nobody seems to mind.
However, allowing your users to use their own equipment for their work tasks present a number of complications that may not be immediately evident at first. The larger your organization, the more complicated these matters will prove to become.
Employees Using Their Own Devices Face Considerably Increased Risk And Difficulty
First, no matter whether your IT support team directly supports the actual hardware your users are on or not, this kind of arrangement will most certainly make things more difficult for them. Rather than being able to easily diagnose problems based on one or several different models of laptop and a common operating system, your support team will have to collect new information every time one of your users has a problem.
In addition, software that works fine on one laptop might not work on another, for any number of reasons—one laptop may feature older hardware, outdated operating systems. A general unfamiliarity with a particular brand of laptop will all hamper your IT support team’s ability to deliver quick results. Your IT support team will have to look up specs every time a different user needs assistance.
Does It Really Save Much Money After All?
Second, if your IT support team does offer full technical support for the computers your users are using for work, you may not be saving money by allowing users to use their own computers after all. Technical support coverage in such arrangements is generally much more expensive than support coverage limited to known company devices. In such a situation, the money you think you are saving by not buying hardware may just be going to your IT support team instead!
It Is Best To Have A BYOD Policy In Place
Third, allowing users to use their own devices introduces problems in regards to keeping the environment standardized.
To begin with, users may be reticent to install significant amounts of company software on their personal devices. They would certainly be more reticent to install software they perceive as intrusive, to begin with.
A user may choose to disable antivirus software on account of it bogging down their system, or may choose to utilize an older version of a piece of software that they own rather than upgrading to match the rest of the team. All of these make life more difficult for your IT support team.
You Won’t Have Your Fingers On The Pulse
Furthermore, your IT support team will have a difficult time keeping track of software versions that need to be upgraded, Windows updates that need to be deployed, etc. And unlike a work-provided laptop, your users will certainly have more software installed on their personal computer than just what they use on a daily basis for their job.
In the worst-case scenario, one insecure program installed on one user’s computer can open up the rest of your network, even if that insecure program doesn’t have anything to do with your company.
All of these things present a security risk. Your employees will be doing your work, using your data, on devices that you have no control over.
Are Your Users Using Legitimate Software?
Finally, let’s face it. Sometimes free really is the best price, and sometimes it isn’t.
When your users are using their own equipment, they may use pirated software—that is, software that hasn’t been properly licensed or otherwise legally acquired. This can cause problems for your company if they happen to be caught, even if you weren’t aware of the problem in the first place.
Furthermore, many websites hosting pirated software embed viruses and other malware into their illicit products, increasing the risk to your business. As seen recently in the Colonial Pipeline incident, it can take as little as one illicit entry to compromise an entire network and more.
So What Can I Do?
After that considerable (and incomplete) warning, you might be surprised to find out that there are indeed ways to integrate personal devices into the ecosystem of your workplace.
In fact, there are ways to employ personal devices in even a very large and well-capitalized company that are both secure and convenient.
First off, it goes without saying that mobile phones and tablets are excellent candidates to utilize for specific applications such as mail and collaboration software. For example, Office 365 mobile app versions for Office and Teams apps can be downloaded directly from official sources such as the App Store for iPhones and Google Play for Android.
Second, while it is generally not advisable to allow users to work directly on their own desktops for their job, another solution exists—Remote Desktop Services. With the right infrastructure setup, your users will be able to open up a window to their work computer that’s sitting in the office, or even to a virtual machine hosted on a service such as Azure or AWS.
When using Remote Desktop Services, your users will have direct, realtime access to another computer just as if they were sitting in front of it. In this case, even though your user is typing on their own laptop, it’s as if they were actually at their remote computer. You can manage that remote computer normally, and your user can keep their own computer relatively free of bothersome company software. This solution is highly scalable and only implements a small additional bit of troubleshooting, as your IT support team can be instructed to assist users specifically with setting up this remote connection only.
It Might Be Just Fine After All
Finally, for users with only trivial computing needs, it might be fine to allow them to use their own computers, as long as they follow some basic security provisions.
For example, the Office 365 suite includes access to a web portal with fully functional versions of their major applications. You can create Powerpoint presentations, use Excel, Word, Onedrive and do just about anything else via the web portal. Implementing multifactor authentication will considerably enhance the level of security for such users. This is often secure enough for most ordinary users, particularly if they aren’t going from place to place too often.
It's A Complicated Issue, But Worth Reviewing
Any company is right to consider any and all options that make the business healthier.
Not wasting money is an important part of running a strong and profitable business—after all, the bottom line is the bottom line.
However, trying to squeeze a penny can often result in dropping a pound. Allowing users to utilize their personal equipment to do their job introduces a number of unknown elements to your work environment.
In the end, it can be more trouble than it’s worth.