The New Year always heralds the emergence of bands of soothsayers identifying key trends for the year ahead.

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We have been keeping a particularly close eye on the rise of Bring Your Own Technology, which debuted in last year’s lists as Bring Your Own Device, referring to the practice of using personal phones, tablets and laptops in the workplace.

BYOT makes a strong showing in 2013, carried on the twin currents of the consumerisation of IT, and the trend to deliver services anywhere, to anything, through the Cloud.

Although not always associated with the bleeding-edge, it is the public sector that is leading the way in adopting employee-owned devices in the workplace. Cisco’s October 2012 report identified that 83pc of the education sector allowed the use of personal devices at work. Worryingly, 44pc of these organisations have only loose guidelines or none at all. Daily experience on the front line means that it is no surprise to us that 1 in 4 of these organisations has already experienced a security breach due to an employee-owned device accessing the network. That is worth reflecting on, for it is a quite staggering statistic.

Nonetheless BYOT, while not universal, has evolved from niche activity into mainstream practice. In the private sector, it is the executives who are leading the charge – iPads in hand. Rather than play Canute, we need to embrace potential benefits and mitigate the risks.

Wider analysis shows that the Chairman’s pride and joy is only the thin end of the wedge. According to Forrester’s 2012 research, 44pc of global information workers have installed work-related software without reference to their IT department. This shadow IT spend raises wide-ranging questions - for example, how and if employees should be reimbursed, and who is responsible for replacing technology damaged at work?

Two far more serious headaches threaten businesses like yours if BYOT develops unrestrained. A landmark court ruling is inevitable, relating to the ownership of information stored on personal devices. More complex still will be the cases where company information is stored in personal “cloud storage” services. The second major headache will be caused by the challenge of supporting a menagerie of applications and devices. This will place massive demands on IT support, and has obvious security implications.

Happily, help is at hand. Not far behind today’s device-savvy consumers will come a wave of data and security-savvy users. We would encourage local businesses to join this second wave, and be early adopters not of BYOT, but of the services and policies that can support BYOT as a valuable business tool. Private Cloud services can ensure that your corporate data is stored securely, and in a location where the ownership of that data is not in doubt. Your IT partners can advise on policies, boundaries and technologies that can mitigate support challenges and security threats.

Our default position is still to resist BYOT, but a measured approach could enable local businesses to safely explore the BYOT benefits of employee engagement and productivity that have excited visionary business leaders the world over.

Nick Dent heads up the Solutions Team at Computer Service Centre

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