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Business in Vancouver

Canadian Freelance Union- CEP

Beware the growing flood of personal computing devices into the workplace

by  Alan Zisman (c) 2011 First published in Business in Vancouver November 29-December 5 issue #1153 High Tech Office column

Many party invitations ask you to BYOB (bring your own bottle). Increasingly, employees in organizations large and small are insisting on their right to BYOD – to be able to bring (and use) their own devices at work.

Earlier this year, Gartner Research vice-president Leslie Fiering discussed BYOD with a room filled mostly with local IT leaders. At Gartner, Fiering focuses on notebook and mobile computing and employee-owned PC and notebook strategies.

Fiering noted recent Gartner studies that suggest that companies are increasingly seeing employees connecting their personal iPads and other devices to the network. Despite this, only three of 70 organizations contacted had formal policies in place for this.

Employees are increasingly expecting to be able to bring their personal devices to the office and use them for work. Fiering told her IT audience that “resistance is futile,” despite IT concerns about security risks, support costs and compliance issues.

Demands often start at the top with senior management insisting that they be supported in the use of their personal devices, even though Fiering noted that they’re often the biggest security risks.

Organizations can save money when employees use their own smartphones, tablets or notebooks at work, but some companies report higher costs as IT staff are asked to support a more diverse range of hardware and software. Fiering suggested that organizations look at a range of options, including holding employees completely responsible for costs associated with their devices and sharing costs to providing corporate data plans (and support) for personal devices.

She noted that some organizations had contained costs by limiting support to a fixed number of models or by only supporting the “corporate footprint” on the devices. Other useful strategies: build a “self-service portal” for users pointing them to outside resources for their devices and to encourage “communities of peers” within the organization to help one another.

There’s no single model for all organizations – or even for all employees within each organization. It might make sense for the company to buy mobile devices and pay for phone and data costs for employees working on the road but not for those who are full time “on campus.”

Because IT can’t assume that user-provided devices are secure, Fiering urged organizations to segment their networks by providing full access to fully controlled company devices (or virtual machines), partial access to user-controlled devices that have been registered with the company and limited access to unknown devices with authenticated users.

Unknown users – regardless of the device – should be locked out of the network.

Another issue is software licensing.

Here, Fiering reported that Microsoft licensing, in particular, “can get hairy” with different models for using an employee-owned device to access Microsoft servers, to run Microsoft Office and Outlook or to access email.

Organizations should be creating BYOD policies and communicating them to employees. Among the issues:

•Who buys the device and who pays for what services?
•What does the organization support?
•What levels of network access are allowed?
•What are the security procedures?

Tablets are not new, but with the iPad, Apple has “created an object of desire,” which is being “literally injected into the enterprise.”

Fiering noted that iPads can be valuable tools in the enterprise, but that it is a mistake to assume they can either replace or be managed like notebooks.She added that, while Apple is not a traditional “enterprise player,” its proprietary approach has become surprisingly enterprise-friendly by limiting its range of available hardware, vetting apps and providing more security and manageability features. Fiering’s conclusion: “Don’t delude yourself. Non-enterprise devices are already accessing your stuff. Ignore this at your peril.” 

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