A BYOD (bring your own device) policy that enables employees to work outside the office on their own devices works well for many companies, big and small. If you’re looking to expand into foreign markets, a BYOD policy provides several advantages, including increased flexibility for you and your staff and access to the business network from any approved device. It’s not without its disadvantages, however. Read on to see if a BYOD plan could work for you on a global scale.

Improve International Communication

Currently, businesses that include an international BYOD plan receive phone and data services at pretty good rates. Individual users traveling abroad pay around $1 per minute to talk and $10 per 10 MB of data used, according to InfoWorld. The bigger the company, the bigger the discount. Some plans even offer fixed rates.

International roaming service is improving quickly, too. AT&T recently expanded its international Wi-Fi coverage through a cooperative plan with Spanish wireless provider Fon. CIO reported that Fon hotspots in Portugal and Poland will have access to those who buy specific services through AT&T’s Global Data Add-On plan. It will add to the number of hotspots in those countries, which currently have a combined 800,000 hotspots.

Even better news for your IT department: Wi-Fi doesn’t connect to cellular frequencies, which are expensive, but rather through an unlicensed radio spectrum. These are cheaper and less restrictive to travelers.

Avoid High Phone Bills

To avoid racking up a high overseas phone bill, try these tips:

  • Unlock your phone before you travel. A handset that’s constantly on drives up the data roaming costs. Talk with your operator to unlock the phone when you purchase it (this will cost a small fee).
  • Purchase a second, cheaper phone overseas. Use this phone for personal use, and use your work phone to access local data. This way you’ll only be charged for a local data rate, rather than a roaming rate.

Weigh the Costs

An international BYOD plan may not be the best choice for some businesses. A $100 stipend for one employee on an international trip might not even make your accountant bat an eye, but add that up over several employees on several trips, and you could start seeing dents in your bottom line. Calculate the number of employees traveling internationally and how much each trip may cost and compare it with the cost of not having an international BYOD plan.

Policy Advice

Things can get a little sticky if an employer is evaluating an employee’s use of his or her mobile device. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission states that employees do not have any privacy rights under a BYOD system. For many countries in Europe and in Canada, it’s the opposite. According to ECommerce Times, employees have privacy rights to emails they send and receive. There is still much to be settled on when it comes to intellectual property with BYOD policies, especially if a business doesn’t have a well-written policy or one that covers employees across the globe.

Safe and Secure

One of the biggest advantages of BYOD with regard to international traveling is that all data for the business is saved and secured through a cloud system. If a device gets lost, stolen or damaged, the information isn’t likely to be lost with it. If you’re still scared about data being lost or stolen, invest in a device that offers remote wipe features like Blackberry. Blackberry offers that particular useful feature, as well as many others on their new devices, making them even more business-friendly than before.

There are, however, many unique security challenges with international BYOD. You and your IT team should set up security systems for both software and hardware that can lock down mobile devices when needed. Other suggestions to improve security include:

  • Educate employees and create a code of conduct
  • Require management rules
  • Install security programs and backup systems

Prepare for Bill Shock

With so many different polices and costs varying from county to country, have your IT department set up a telecom expense management (TEM) system. This allows IT to manage, track and allocate actual expenses in real time and provides alerts and expense reports to users. This should prevent any eye-bulging reactions when the bill comes.

BYOD may be challenging when it comes to global use, but with the right polices, software, hardware and securities in place, it can also be quite beneficial to your company.