BYOD Trend Fueling Consumer Application Adoption

Most small-business IT leaders find the benefits of consumer applications in the workplace outweighed the risks.

The rise in popularity of bring your own device, or BYOD, policies is also spurring an increase of consumer-oriented application usage in the workplace, according to a survey of more than 1,200 small and midsize businesses conducted by Edge Strategies on behalf of cloud and mobile services specialist LogMeIn.

Nearly 70 percent of the SMBs polled report active use of employee-introduced applications, ranging from cloud sync and storage apps like Dropbox and SkyDrive, collaboration apps like Skype and GoToMeeting, productivity apps such as Google Docs and Evernote, and social apps like LinkedIn.

Despite security concerns, the bring your own application (BYOA) trend is expected to expand significantly over the next five years, according to more than a third of SMBs surveyed. Worryingly, just 22 percent of SMB IT pros indicated they are fully prepared to handle BYOA and 43 percent are concerned with the lack of control over these apps.

However, 67 percent of SMB IT pros listed data security of apps in the cloud as a primary factor limiting adoption of BYOA, while 43 percent cited the lack of control and management as a limiting factor. The survey indicated other key factors curtailing broader growth included lack of integration with corporate applications and systems, as well as industry-specific regulations.

"As with the BYOD trend before it, we're seeing an increasing number of businesses embracing the rise of employee-introduced applications entering the workplace, in spite of the inherent security concerns. And like BYOD, the BYOA trend is likely to introduce a fresh set of IT challenges when it comes to managing a relatively unpredictable, heterogeneous environment — a modern workplace reality that blurs the line between devices and data ownership," Andrew Burton, LogMeIn senior vice president of products, said in a statement. "This research makes it fairly clear that there is yet to be an agreed upon way for SMBs to best manage and secure the influx of these apps into the workplace … or the sensitive data created by and shared within them."

In addition, the survey found 69 percent of social apps and 52 percent of cloud sync and storage apps being used within SMBs were originally introduced by employees, while 39 percent of productivity apps and 44 percent of collaboration apps in use at SMBs were first introduced by employees. In both categories, just over a quarter (26 percent) of the apps were officially endorsed by the employer.

When it comes to productivity, most IT leaders find the benefits of BYOA outweighed the risks. Just under half (47 percent) of SMB IT pros indicate that BYOA can provide increased flexibility, while 37 percent say BYOA can help discover gaps in the set of apps needed in the workplace. Thirty percent of SMBs say they encourage the use of BYOA, while 22 percent discourage and 16 percent prohibit such use.