For the last year or so the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) buzz word has been scaring IT and security managers around the world. The concept behind it is simple enough. As tablets and laptop have become ubiquitous appliances in the home then why not bring them into the workplace. Users are already familiar with the hardware, OS and applications and the IT department budget can save money on hardware and potentially support. Of course, the counter argument and what is really getting IT and Security departments concerned is the introduction of additional risk to the enterprise environment. There is a very real danger of insecure applications/configurations, virus’s all posing a risk to the otherwise “secure” enterprise network and for an IT support managers perspective how can they possibly be expected to troubleshoot an enterprise application that isn’t working when there is no baseline build or hardware level.
Some companies have successfully implemented a BYOD policy. Notable large companies such as Cisco have taken the approach of allowing BYOD but support is provided on a best efforts basis through internal informal user groups and Wiki’s. Other companies take the approach that you can choose whatever device you want but the more it deviates away from the standard procured hardware then your cost center will pay a premium each month.
The BYOD is actually nothing new, ever since the rise in personal and home computing people have always wanted to bring their own “better”, newer and more powerful devices into the office. The paradox was drawn between IT and the end user. Why should I use and old device in the office when I can work more efficiently on my shiny new laptop? There is of course no way that technology departments can keep with the pace of change in both software and hardware without an infinite budget so a balance was drawn. This balance was more often than not drawn in favor of corporate standards, security and cost of ownership. Of course there are exceptions. Every company has them. The ever powerful executive or the technologists working on future strategy for whom an exception is granted.
The difference now is that consumer hardware and network connectivity have become ubiquitous and with it the end users are now far more tech savvy than ever before. The once previous line between consumer and enterprise technology has vanished.
Your typical home user has their WiFi router at home that they plugged in themselves and are quite happy connecting their laptop, iPhone, iPad and many other devices to the internet. They keep in touch with friends and family via instant chat, video chat and social media networks. Consumers are not just using these devices in the home, equipped with 3G and WiFi these applications and hardware are being used on the move. With the power provided by the current generation and phones and tablets it is no wonder that they have become an everyday part of people’s lives and no surprise why they are insisting on using them in the workplace.
Indeed it is impossible to ban these devices from the office. Some large investment banks have tried to ban cell phones from trading floors others have implemented policy’s to prevent USB smart drives being used some have taken the approach of allowing certain applications to be installed to allow email for example on the personal devices. The remaining companies have either said no altogether or provided corporate equivalent devices.
Even if a company has a good policy on the use of personal devices in the work place there are the huge challenges of enforcing it – what is to stop someone plugging their own Wi-Fi router in to the network? Less than 1% of companies have implemented 802.1x or other methods of port security and how many companies actively scan for rogue end points? Or what is to stop someone using public Wi-Fi or 3g to work on documents on their laptop and emailing them to their work account? Let’s hope the laptop now with sensitive corporate data on it does not get lost!
For the end user, technology is just a tool. Like any tool they want to use the one that gets the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. IT departments should be embracing this, training where necessary and understanding that there is a huge cross over in technology capabilities.
Who wants to carry a BlackBerry for email, a laptop for corporate access, a smart phone for personal calls and a tablet for personal email?
One approach in achieving a balance and redrawing the line between personal and corporate is to reset the baseline. Allow users to use their own tablets and smart phones but set the parameters for use. For example, why not allow corporate VPN connectivity from your iPad to RDP to your office desktop, why not allow and encrypted email client to be installed on the iPhone? Allowing this, might come with the tradeoff that if your device is lost or stolen the IT department is at liberty to remotely wipe your device.
This leaves the challenge of supporting the corporate applications on the device; this should be a very small subset of productivity applications that are best delivered as native apps and importantly should work via both VPN and not VPN connections. The application set might be very small, for secure email using Good keeps corporate and personal email separate and encrypted. Using VCEverywhere for video conferencing provides connectivity to your existing video conference environment but with the added advantage of support being taken care of by a third party. This is particularly important to ensure that the IT Support department does not suffer determinately.
Video Conferencing on personal devices has seen and continues to see a huge amount of growth. Just with email there are distinctions between what is suitable to corporate use versus personal use. Whilst Skype and Facetime make great consumer orientated applications they offer no interoperability with the corporate world, nor do they meet the feature set or security requirements of an enterprise. Using the VCEverywhere application on tablets, smartphones and laptops makes sense. This corporate solution is available as a free download, meets the interoperability requirements to work with any room based video conference solution, meets IT security requirements, works either via the public network or VPN and most importantly comes with 24×7 support.
Mark Stainton-James is a recognised technology leader with over 20 years of experience in managing global teams and setting technology strategy for many of the worlds leading financial institutions.
http://www.VCEverywhere.com is a video conferencing exchange provider allowing any video conferencing endpoint to communicate with any other end point regardless of platform.