By Sof Socratous, VP of EMEA, Seagate

When “bring-your-own-device” (BYOD) took the world by storm a few years ago, it was a revelation to employees – and a complication for IT departments, who had to ensure consistency, security and functionality across a range of devices.

Fast forward 5 years and we’re seeing a much different landscape today. The majority of businesses have embraced a BYOD strategy of some kind, whether it’s as little as giving employees an allowance for use of personal mobiles to offering employees a full suite of corporate-connected laptops and tablets. Gartner has even predicted that by 2017, half of all employees will be required to supply their own work device – placing the responsibility of work technology firmly in the employee’s hands.

From cost-savings to heightened employee satisfaction, the benefits BYOD has brought to business is unquestionable. However, it has ushered in a fundamental shift in the way data is stored – from traditional local storage on desktops, notebooks, or servers to cloud storage available whenever, wherever, and however it’s needed.

As a result, BYOD has had an indisputable impact on the phrase that can strike fear (or at least confusion) into a business owner’s heart: Big Data. As businesses welcome new, employee-owned devices into the fold, data stored on company servers or cloud storage has grown significantly as personal data is being downloaded and stored by default. From the world’s largest conglomerate to the coffee shop down the road, any business that implements a BYOD policy is contributing to the growth of Big Data.

So how can SMB owners manage Big Data while keeping up with the crowd in offering the popular BYOD policy? At Seagate, we have put together a few tips that small businesses can follow to ensure they are using the most efficient, cost-effective, and forward-looking policies.

Ensure that you have effective security in place across all of the company’s IT assets.

This may seem obvious, but the proliferation of user-owned devices at work means that IT managers have to secure different devices. Be sure your business has a consistent approach to securing employees’ devices to protect the data they are creating and storing.

Be smart about the mobile management software you choose.

The major benefit of Big Data for all businesses is the huge opportunity it presents to analyse data in ways that improve efficiency, uncover trends, and ultimately grow the business. A BYOD policy can improve a company’s access to mobile, real-time data from its employees on the ground and in the field – as long as the right software and data management system is in place. It’s critical that small business owners ensure that they have one consistent and effective mobile management software system.

Consider a ‘Choose Your Own Device’ approach

Rather than allowing employees to bring in any device, provide a list of approved products for employees to choose from. It can help put your business back in the driver’s seat – ensuring that the data is stored securely and with the right system to analyse and manage the data centrally.

Leverage the BYOD policy to help increase your business’s storage capacity

The total amount of digital data generated in 2013 was about 3.5 zettabytes (that’s 35 with 20 zeros following). By 2020, experts predict the world will generate 40 zettabytes of data annually: that’s roughly the equivalent of 1 million photographs or 1500 HD movies, for every single person on the planet. The bottom line is we’re running out of space – and fast. A BYOD policy can help ensure that data storage is quick to access, efficient to manage, and low-cost to maintain.

Whatever your company’s policy on mobile devices, one thing is clear: Big Data isn’t going anywhere. Small business owners need to consider the implications of Big Data for their business and address it by thinking strategically and long term, not only as it relates to their storage needs today, but also the devices that are accessing business critical data tomorrow.