Bring Your Own Computer is a phrase which over the last year has reared its head quite frequently – but is it just another “Flavour of the Month” or is it “Here to Stay”?
The first week back after Christmas or the Monday after Father’s Day have always been a frightening period for IT and Networking Managers – with everyone from the CEO downwards arrving at work with the latest, shiniest phone or PDA demanding to connect it to the corporate network so they can access their e-mail in the bath or other unlikely locations. Still, it was only two scary days per year. But not anymore. Did you see the queues outside the Apple Store when the iPhone4 or iPad2 came out? And then there are those that Desire a HTC (see what I did there?) or want one of the myriad of Android devices or other tablets that are seemingly being unveiled on a daily basis. Add to this a plethora of NetBooks and Notebooks including various sizes of Macs and we have a huge population explosion of super cool devices. The killer for organisations of course is that every one of these is billions of times better than the archaic steam driven laptop and phone that the typical IT department provides, and after using these hot new 21st century toys at home to read the latest tweets and blogs from our friends (most of whom we’ve never met!), who wants to throw in another few lumps of coal to access email on our dinosaur laptops?
Faced with this barrage of high tech, productivity enhancing, life changing gadgetry… what should the poor IT manager do? Run away? Hide in a cupboard until 2022 when everything will be automatically delivered directly to the brain by retina implants? Stick up the security shutters and block everything that’s not corporately provided? Probably not.
So Mr IT Manager, take a deep breath, and embrace. Think about it. Is it better to ban everything and turn everyone you’ve ever known into mini hackers trying to break into the corporate network to attach their new devices? Or alternatively, could you gain a level of control by allowing mature adults to realise their potential, providing them with the means to connect and use corporate resources and have access to their data? This is where “Bring/Buy Your Own Computer” (or Tablet or Phone) comes into the picture. However, it’s not without its own danger. Acceptable usage policies need to be drawn up to protect not only corporate information but also the individual. I mean, I’d be livid if the IT department wiped out my Angry Birds scores (got all the stars on all the levels and all the bananas, pineapples and nearly all the beach balls in Angry birds Rio) so something needs to be in place both ways. I’d be more than happy to know that the IT department will remotely wipe my device if I lost it, likewise I understand the need for them to be sure I’m not introducing any viruses so I may need to have some kind of security software installed.
After all, the company’s most important asset (after me, of course) is its intellectual property and I understand it needs to protect that.
By embracing BYOC, not only would I be a happy camper because I can use what I want, there could also be financial gains for the company as they wouldn’t have to replace my laptop when it finally stops being able to run the latest bloatware apps from some Seattle based software house, or more likely when said software house stops supporting it as it’s at least four generations old anyway. If I’m willing to pay for hardware myself, then why not let me? It’s one less expense for the company and as we’ve already established, I’m more likely to purchase something with far more power then the company would and therefore easily capable of running any work related apps. If the IT department wanted to be certain, then it could provide a minimum specification.
One area that still needs a bit of work though is that of support. The IT department’s nirvana has always been to strive for a single common operating environment or standard build. In reality though, does this really happen? Due to changes over time in both hardware and software, operating environments usually mutate into several different builds and becomes increasingly harder to support. Having to support a standard set of corporate applications running on what could be an almost infinite spread of operating systems and hardware platforms might be considered almost impossible. So what can we do about this? Well, one possible solution to is VDI (which isn’t a new sexually transmitted disease) – Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. VDI allows corporate applications (and data) to live on a virtualised/consolidated server environment that can be accessed by the end device on-demand. These applications are often designed to run within a web browser so in theory as long as your super shiny mega device has a browser, you can run the apps. It will also save all the data remotely, which helps improve security. This will of course put a reasonable amount of extra strain on the network so organisations may have to look into upgrading their datacentre network or consider technologies like WAN Optimisation (making important stuff like yours go faster, in non geek speak).
So to summarise, shiny new stuff will keep coming out and there will always be demand for companies to allow their employees to use these on the corporate network. The best approach, in my humble opinion, is for companies to embrace this, call it BYOC or some other clever acronym and sort out the necessary security, back-end infrastructure and support to properly enable this.
Right. Time to form an orderly queue for the iPhone5…
Head of Solutions
Dimension Data United Kingdom
Contact Chris Knowles