Supporting BYOD means facing a new set of challenges
As smartphones and tablets continue to become more and more popular, the business ramifications are becoming clearer and clearer. Going forward, organizations will have to find new ways to incorporate these devices into the complete IT infrastructure—ways that mitigate risks, yet take full advantage of the potential of these devices to increase workers' productivity and convenience.
The fact is that smart mobile devices are already, in almost all cases, being used to access business services in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) fashion. They have been for some time now. And while it would be tempting to assume workers will simply self-manage—independently understanding and addressing all the various complexities—it would also be naive.
So the question IT should be asking isn't "Should we do anything about BYOD?" The question is instead "How can we manage this situation for the best possible outcome?" IT will have to be proactive in this matter by creating a context-aware mobile device strategy, and then implementing that strategy via leading solutions and guided by proven best practices.
Critical points to consider before BYOD adoption
Before implementing BYOD in a formal way, it's important to consider the situation from the standpoints of both the organization and the individual worker.
"Security is the leading problem with BYOD in the minds of most IT professionals and executives. This being the case, it will be crucial to consider how and to what extent security is going to be applied, managed, and improved over time."
The idea should be to strike a middle ground—acknowledging worker needs and interests, but also serving those interests in a way that will help, not harm, the host organization.
One key issue to consider, for instance, is the new set of policies that will have to be written. These should be simple, enforceable, and in fact, enforced. They will need to identify and clearly discuss the key issues involved, such as which platforms and applications will be supported, role-specific requirements that might apply, the systems and services to be accessed, the kinds of actions management can/will take, the software allowed, and, of course, user privacy. They should also specify whether laptops will fall under the heading of (and be managed as) mobile devices.
Security is the leading problem with BYOD in the minds of most IT professionals and executives. This being the case, it will be crucial to consider how and to what extent security is going to be applied, managed, and improved over time. Common questions—what happens if a device is lost? how can devices be remotely wiped in whole or in part? what about malware? do agents need to be installed on devices, and can they be in all cases?—will have to be asked and answered well in advance of strategy rollout.
Employee awareness is also an important factor. Even the best IT policies and capabilities can be defeated inadvertently by employees who don't know they exist and don't take advantage of them.
Which services should be accessible by mobile devices? While some (e-mail, calendaring) are clearly important for everyday purposes, others (enterprise resource planning, e-commerce) might represent too large a risk.
The IT service desk should also be well prepared to help users with the suite of new technical problems that come bundled with BYOD. That means bringing team members up to speed on both the devices and the relevant management solutions, as well as establishing when/why to support different classes of problems. Some problems will be best referred to the employee's carrier, the phone vendor, or perhaps an application provider.
Finally, the projected network impact is another important point to consider. Supporting BYOD will inevitably create new strain on the network via all those mobile devices creating and routing data in different ways. As the total data volume scales up, network quality of service could take a hit without proactive planning to support the new load.
TEM for Mobile: BYOD is as easy as 1-2-3
Once you've established your BYOD strategy, you'll need top-tier solutions to help you implement it—and you'll quickly find that this is an area of strength for IBM.
IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices, for instance—part of the larger Endpoint Manager platform—can help you get your arms around an incredibly diverse range of mobile solutions, both unifying and simplifying their management.
This offering supports Apple iOS, Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone devices—which is to say, the huge majority of the mobile marketplace. It does so via both agented and agentless mechanisms, so that operating systems that don't allow agents can still be managed as fully as the underlying platform will allow.
Keeping track of all those mobile devices, apps, and app use is both easy and fast; continually updated Web reports reflect the changing mobile device infrastructure, and employee usage, at a glance.
Because the solution is incredibly scalable—up to a quarter-million endpoints per management server—it can grow in proportion to the smart device population. And its security capabilities are remarkably extensive, despite the fact that many mobile devices were never originally designed for security.
It can, for instance, partly or fully wipe mobile devices of their data as soon as users report losing devices; this alone will create considerable peace of mind for both the organization and the device owner. It's also easy to create policies that will completely block devices whose operating systems aren't adequately secure (and can't be made so) from using IT services.
Another important strength of Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices is its support for an enterprise app store. By creating such a store, organizations can offer workers an easy way to get vetted-and-approved apps, increasing both the overall security posture and team member productivity, via both push and pull app distribution models. IT will also benefit from the fact that the store can be used to analyze app usage and software license compliance—key metrics needed to evaluate the success of the BYOD strategy.
Over time, as the organization's total use of smart devices increases, it may be helpful to integrate this offering with other IT solutions and services. Fortunately, IBM has made it exceptionally easy to do so, thanks to the fact that Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices is based on open standards, not proprietary protocols. It's also available in different ways—both as a traditional, on-premise software offering, as well as a cloud-based service IBM offers to clients who'd rather not worry about the technical details of implementation and ongoing management.
Finally, because this solution is only part of the IBM Endpoint Manager family, its strengths and capabilities can also be extended to laptops (which are obviously mobile devices too, albeit far more entrenched in the typical IT infrastructure).
In this way, organizations can achieve a truly comprehensive BYOD strategy that supports as many operating systems, apps, platforms, and IT services as the organization requires—all while actually decreasing, not increasing, management complexity and operating costs.
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