The ongoing debate over BYOD vs. COBO vs. COPE vs. CYOD continues

One of the most contentious aspects of IT modernization is centered around the rise of mobile devices, and their implementation into the workforce. Should employees or companies control device choice and usage?

The advent of the mobile phone opened up new ways for organizations to manage their employees, and simultaneously opened up new questions of ethics; with the ability to track their employees' locations and monitor their communications, natural questions are posed as to when, where, and how an organization might cross the privacy line.

According to AT&T / UBM Tech, a Fiberlink-commissioned Harris Interactive survey of 2,500 respondents revealed that 80% of them felt the ability of the company to "track" them using their mobile device was an invasion of privacy.

Also a concern is security – with hundreds of devices in the hands of office and field staff, how is access to mainframes and customer data appropriately protected? The combination of wireless access and legacy applications suddenly opened up entire new worlds of possibility when it came to security breaches.

According to an April 2017 study commissioned by CheckPoint and conducted by Dimension Research, 56% of respondents claimed their company had not been subject to a security breach originating with a lost or hacked mobile device – but 20% said they certainly had experienced a breach of this type and 24% admitted they couldn't know for certain. Just over one third of companies said they had deployed a mobile threat defense solution, with a lack of resources cited as the primary reason for going without advanced mobile security.

With all the options available to employees in regards to their devices, companies may want to consider various policies that fit their culture.

Male and female working with a laptop
Which technology program is right for your office?

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device
The most familiar option to workers in 2018 (and the option requiring the least up front costs for employers) is BYOD.  A 2016 BitGlass survey found that 72 percent of organizations support BYOD for some or all of their employees. However, only 14 percent of respondents had adopted a mobile application management policy, meaning the devices were vulnerable to data breaches caused by the owners using them for non-work related activities. BYOD is the least inexpensive option for corporations, but also the hardest to control.

COBO – Company Owned, Business Only
Under a COBO policy, companies supply workers with a device (normally with no choice in what device will be supplied) and restrict its use to business only activity. The Blackberry was the enterprise device of choice for over a decade for office workers, while Sprint offered versatile mobile devices with walkie talkie functionality for field employees – especially in the construction and utility sectors. Today, COBO is typically utilized only by organizations with rigid and complex compliance requirements who require strict device control while still needing to offer their employees mobility. 

COPE – Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled
COPE straddles the divide between BYOD and COBO by providing a device that upholds business security but still provides employee flexibility. Workers trade a measure of privacy for the ability to use their company owned phone for personal activity, and corporations walk a fine line between employee monitoring and privacy invasion. IT can easily monitor and protect devices as well as limit choices for what hardware, services and apps workers can use, and the user doesn't have to carry two devices during work hours.

CYOD – Choose Your Own Device
With a CYOD approach, businesses compile a list of approved devices, configure the devices to enable productivity and protect sensitive data, and remain responsible for security. This allows employees to work with a device of their preference from the approved list, and still gives companies the ability to limit outside applications or activities that could lead to a breach. In some cases, employees own their phones, while in others the phone is company owned or a stipend is provided to pay for the device and monthly costs.

According to a Samsung-commissioned study by Oxford Economics, only 17 percent of enterprises provide mobile phones to all employees, while 31 percent provide to none and instead rely entirely on BYOD. The remaining 52 percent use a hybrid approach. However, 80 percent of respondents agree that mobile phones are vital to effective employee performance, and three-quarters say mobile devices are essential to their business workflows.

Mobile devices are an integral part of IT modernization. However, less than 5% of enterprise legacy applications have been mobilized, leading to increased security concerns. According to Gartner, shipments of mobile devices are expected to exceed the 1.9 billion mark in 2018 meaning securing enterprise mobile devices will be a priority.

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