BYOD: Good for whom exactly?

What we usually hear is that the 'bring your own device' concept brings problems for IT but is cool for users. But is it really that good an idea for them?

A lot of people love the idea of bringing their own computer, Android phone or iPad to work. This trend, called "bring your own device" (BYOD), is catching on in the corporate world. At some companies, workers are no longer provisioned with laptops and cellphones. They just bring their own and add them to the corporate network. CEOs and CFOs in particular seem to love this concept. As for IT departments, they're usually not thrilled that they have to support equipment they may not know a thing about and add new services to support a wide range of personal tech. Nevertheless, even technology giants like IBM, which is letting its 200,000 workers use their own tablets, iPhones or Android smartphones, are embracing the concept.

Hurray, right? Freedom of choice rules! Or does it? Let's think this over.

I know I'm not the average user, but I have an iPad and several Android phones and tablets. I'm self-employed, so I had to pay for them myself. I also have to pay for my Internet and 3G data services. If I worked at a company with a BYOD policy, I would still have to pay for my devices and services. At many companies, I'd also have to load the official virtual private network client and programs for e-mail.

For me, all of that is fine. My tiny business has a four-figure IT budget and I'm a technology expert. What about you? Can you afford to buy your own equipment? Pay for your Internet and phone services? Do a lot of the support work yourself?

Of course, many of you can. After all, you're reading Computerworld. You wouldn't be here if you didn't know and care about business and technology. But should you have to do those things?

Back in the '90s through the 2000s, when I worked for a company, it supplied my computers, paid for my Internet and phone and provided me with software and support. That wasn't cheap then. It's not cheap now.

As I said, I spend a lot on technology. This year, I'll be upgrading to an iPad 3. That will set me back $600 or so. I also need to move from my Droid 2 phone to a Droid 4 -- I love slide-out QWERTY keyboards on phones -- and that will cost me $200. My "unlimited" data plan with Verizon runs me over $1,500 a year. I'll also need to upgrade my ThinkPad. Call that $800. Finally, my 100Mbit/sec. home/office Internet connection runs me $1,200 a year. Put it all together and my personal BYOD budget is $4,300 a year.

That's real money, but I can afford it, and it all comes off my business taxes. Do you have that kind of money? And if you aren't self-employed, can you deduct it?

Let's say BYOD really takes off as a trend and companies start requiring you to pay for your own hardware and connectivity for work. What happens then? Maybe you'll still be fine, but what about someone who's unemployed? Can they afford to buy a good smartphone for work? An iPad!? I don't think so.

Listen. I get it. I've been using my own stuff my own way at work for decades. For people like me -- people who like technology, know it well and are willing to pay for the good stuff -- BYOD is great. But I really don't think that BYOD is good for most people. BYOD is just too expensive for rank-and-file workers.

It would be one thing if companies paid for users' personal equipment and services, but I really fear BYOD is becoming just another way to shift costs off the company budget and onto employee's backs. Worse still, I can see BYOD actually blocking people from being hired.

So, even though I'm a BYOD user through and through, I can't really get behind the idea that BYOD is that great an idea for everyone.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was cutting-edge and 300bit/sec. was a fast Internet connection -- and we liked it! He can be reached at

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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