BYOD cost optimization: Get the most out of your BYOD program

The BYOD cost vs. savings equation is a complex one to balance. This tip explores how to best optimize costs involved in your BYOD initiative.

BYOD programs can have varying levels of savings owing to different platforms having different cost structures. For instance smart phones require less support than PCs, thus savings are more easily recognized here. However BYOD program for PCs/notebooks and tablets have potential to save a lot on capital costs out of the box.

The flip side of this coin is having to put in place a robust infrastructure and support mechanism. You will need to consider things like software licensing, whether to go for virtualization or not, and the learning curve involved in using devices that are not company standard.

Infrastructure considerations

A major factor impacting potential savings is the amount of infrastructure build-out required for network security and data protection. An example here would be the investment required in extending network bandwidth availability, which could turn out to be much greater than capital cost savings. Devices like smart-phones are relatively cheap, being co-funded and so forth; however, you will need to account for data connectivity costs. Moreover, if you lack the proper mobile device management (MDM) tools, acquiring those costs extra.

The key thing here is to understand what kinds of devices are going to be used/ allowed on your network to determine the BYOD program's cost and savings. Look at both sides of the equation. Rather than focusing on net savings, look at benefits like IT staff not having to manage non-strategic assets. BYOD can help shift focus to high-value, high ROI initiatives; provide greater productivity and promote an attractive work culture in the organization.

The cost optimization part

Once you determine what your BYOD costs are, there are several things you could do to optimize them. There are two primary areas, apart from the cost of the device itself, that may need some tweaking:

  1. Data connectivity costs

  2. Support costs

    1. Data connectivity :

Options range from the employee owning the device and the organization paying for the corporate data plan to a wholly employee funded model with the company providing the support. There are models in between where the data costs are split (70-30 or 60-40 or a flat monthly stipend and so forth).

  • When to shift connectivity cost to users

This could be different for different classes of users; evaluate it based on their roles. Role-based categorization is the best way to formalize decisions about who should pay for connectivity. The basic tenet is: whosoever benefits, pays.

If a user’s job role requires tools and levels of connectivity, it is incumbent upon the company to pay for them, e.g. sales and marketing personnel. However, if the user requires connectivity for his own convenience, the cost should fall to him.

Stipends are a good tactical tool to motivate BYOD adoption, but only if this furthers the company’s plans to realize capital and support cost reductions and contain rogue devices. Stipends should not be awarded for user-convenience. Care needs to be taken here as taxation issues are involved and should not end up being a hardship for the user.

    2. IT support costs

These are the most visible costs associated with BYOD. The best way to lower them is to minimize the corporate footprint on the device. Automating management through MDM will help lower support costs.

For most smart-phones and tablets, support costs are usually limited to initial service configuration and activation over the air (OTA). For PCs, developing, loading and maintaining a contained enterprise environment on the device may be expensive, but can help reduce support costs.

Self-service portals can bring about major cost-savings for BYOD. Remember that most of these ideas will apply to corporately owned devices as well. Be cautious of technical support from peer communities. Organizations implementing BYOD face issues of users providing 'shadow IT support' to their peers for lack of an alternative, leading to productivity losses. This could translate into having an expensive helpdesk doing inefficient work.

Licensing requirements

An important aspect of BYOD costs is the enterprise licensing ramifications of employee-owned devices. Determine the most appropriate licensing model based on your usage and circumstance. In many cases BYOD may increase licensing costs, and this needs to be considered.

BYOD licensing costs may involve licensing an employee-owned device to access Microsoft Windows server OS, Office, Outlook, licensing for hosted virtual desktop (HVD) access, and so forth. This is a complex problem that varies from country to country. Get licensing rules in writing from Microsoft since Microsoft’s licensing requirements for alternative and user-owned devices are not very well defined.

Quick tips on licensing for iPads

  • While allowing employees to access Microsoft Office from their personally owned iPads, ensure that server-based installations of Office are covered with SA for the users' primary devices (PCs / notebooks).
  • Review Microsoft's licensing requirements for HVDs and ensure iPads are covered either by SA roaming rights or VDA.
  • Having user-owned iPads as notebook companions can help taking of roaming rights for Windows or Office.

Taking the example of Microsoft licenses, access to most servers is by device: client access licenses (CALs) or user CALs. Review your CAL licensing method; whether user-based or device-based (iPads require additional licenses here).

Consider switching to user-licenses if supporting a large number of iPads, since user-owned iPads may be able to use the roaming rights of software assurance (SA) or virtual desktop access (VDA) for Office and HVD. iPads owned by the organization or located on the organization's premises cannot use roaming rights and need their own licenses.

This tip is based on a talk on challenges and issues surrounding BYOD adoption, by Stephen Kleynhans, Research VP, Gartner, at the Gartner IT Infrastructure Operations & Data Center Summit 2012 in Mumbai.

(Compiled by Varun Haran)

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