- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2012

That iPhone you bring to work to keep busy at the office could be setting up your company for big trouble.

Forget wasting company time with personal calls and Facebook updates, or damaging the firm’s online reputation with negative comments on Twitter.

A new problem with the explosion of mobile high-tech devices has popped up, and many workplaces aren’t prepared for it. As more employees bring their personal smartphones, tablets and laptops to work, too many devices are connecting to the office’s wireless Internet system and overloading the network.

In fact, personal-device overload has emerged as a leading cause of corporate network crashes, said Aaron Brooks, innovation manager at Softchoice, an information technology solutions and service provider, and a surge that coincides with recent disruptions at companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo.

“It’s creating an interesting challenge for businesses,” said Mr. Brooks, whose firm recently released a study pointing out the weaknesses in network infrastructures across corporate America. “This puts a lot of stress on the network.”

This problem of outages arises as more and more companies try to keep up with technology trends that are revolutionizing the workplace. They are encouraging employees to “bring your own device” to work, and to consider their tablets, smartphones and other devices as 24/7 extensions of their regular workday routines.

The strategy, known as “BYOD,” is growing in popularity because many bosses see it as a way to increase productivity and efficiency without increasing costs.

“It’s more personal,” Mr. Brooks said. “There’s an inherent want [among employees] to use the device that I picked because it’s mine and I own it.”

The traditional workplace with a standard-issue, one-brand-fits-all desktop computer in each cubicle just isn’t cutting it anymore, Mr. Brooks said.

“We shouldn’t be coming to work and having a lesser experience than we would at home,” he said.

Embracing with reservations

Analysts say top companies are embracing BYOD - with reservations. Allowing workers to use their personal devices is cheaper, more flexible and often preferred by the workers themselves. Upgrading with each technology breakthrough is typically far easier and far more decentralized under BYOD than the traditional top-down model.

But flexibility for the employee can mean loss of control and oversight for the employer, beyond the technical strain that the flood of personal devices can put on corporate systems. Who owns the work data stored in your iPhone, control of unacceptable or obscene material, and the fate of company data and processes on personal devices when an employee leaves or is terminated - all have to be worked out, PCWorld columnist Tony Bradley noted recently.

“BYOD isn’t all wine and roses,” Mr. Bradley wrote. “By embracing BYOD, organizations lose much of the control over the IT hardware and how it is used.”

On the positive side, however, employees can get more done with better technology, said Softchoice spokesman Eric Gardiner.

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