The challenges of BYOD for IT Managers
One of the most important innovations of recent years which is transforming the contemporary office space is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). This transformative technology enables company employees to, as the name would suggest, bring their own mobile devices into their place of work and then utilise them to access office systems.
BYOD is already becoming extremely popular for obvious reasons. It offers exceptional flexibility to any business, delivering anytime, anywhere access to critical information and technology. It also potentially enables smaller business to make financial savings on expensive IT equipment. But despite the fact that BYOD is unquestionably an exciting development, like any technological breakthrough it is not a silver bullet. It does pose challenges to IT managers, so here are some of the most prevalent issues that are likely to arise with BYOD.
The first thing to consider with regard to BYOD is that any BYOD system must be compatible with an ever expanding array of different mobile devices. Both tablet computers and smartphones have grown rapidly in popularity in recent years, and not only do these differ greatly in terms of manufacturer, but also run off two popular and competing operating systems. While BYOD is designed by its very nature to deliver a uniform experience to all technology, the reality is that there can be teething problems.
Probably the most obvious and important issue which needs to be dealt with when implementing a BYOD system is security. For the uninitiated, the idea of allowing employees to access company IT systems when potentially anywhere on the planet, and often in public places, can seem quite a scary prospect. In reality, there is no need for undue alarm, but at the same time, it is quite clear that BYOD does pose security risks, and thus these need to be understood and responded to.
So IT managers need to consider all of the security issues posed by BYOD. Some of the prominent issues which immediately come to mind can be summarised thus:
• Monitoring who is accessing the network, where these people are located, and what devices are being used;
• Ensuring that no malignant software such as viruses and malware gain access to the company network;
• Putting in place robust policies to ensure that only appropriate persons are able to gain access to the system, and then maintaining these policies in real-time.
Mobile devices have already become mainstream, but with the fourth generation of mobile networks being activated all over the world, this process will intensify in the next few years. This will have a knock-on effect on BYOD; it will be increasingly difficult for IT managers to differentiate access to consumer and corporate applications with BYOD.
Why will this be the case? Well, quite simply, many modern software applications can have both business and personal applications. The likes of Skype, Dropbox, social media and many other applications are both often used for personal and corporate reasons. The definition of consumer applications becomes rather tenuous when these are taken into consideration. Thus, making decisions about access becomes problematical; an IT manager must decide what applications can be considered business-related, what can be stored on cloud services, and whether virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) applications can be considered a viable option.
It goes without saying that most businesses wish to control what applications can be operated over a corporate network, but in order for BYOD to be implemented effectively, some tricky decisions need to be made in this area. A robust network policy management system needs to be put in place which monitors device usage related to sensitive areas such as instant messaging, video and photography storage, emails, and so on.
Malware / Virus Prevention
It is extremely important that by utilising BYOD within your workplace, you do not open up your company’s IT systems to viruses and malware. Unfortunately, with hackers developing new techniques on a seemingly weekly basis, and many of their latest malignant efforts focused on mobile devices, overcoming this issue can be a headache for IT managers.
It is difficult to list all of the possible malware threats that mobile devices pose to a computer network, but eradicating them needs tough and consistent action. Naturally a strong anti-virus and malware infrastructure needs to be put in place, but this may not be enough in and of itself.
They key issue here really is education. It must be communicated very clearly to employees that malware and viruses and a real threat, and training on the subject would be highly valuable. It is also important to ensure that Mobile Device Management systems are installed. These will enable administrators to check hat security products are installed on an endpoint, enabling IT managers to clearly define rules related to accessing corporate resources.
IT Helpdesk Issues
Aside from security issues, the number one headache that many IT managers find that they have to deal with when implementing a BYOD system is an overloading of the company’s IT helpdesk. There is no doubt that although BYOD offers convenience and flexibility in the long-term, in the short-to-medium-term, configuring such a system can pose logistical problems. Equally, becoming accustomed to the new technology can be a headache for inexperienced users.
Two suggestions can be considered particularly important here. The first is proper training for every member of staff. This really will assist the whole organisation in running the BYOD system effectively. Secondly, automated tools that allow end-users to securely self-onboard their devices can have a hugely positive effect on the amount of issues that are floated with your IT support; potentially making all the difference at a time when you’re trying to get the system online.
Ultimately, BYOD is an exciting and very valuable technological innovation, and though there may be teething troubles in getting it to work and operate seamlessly within your organisation, persevering with its implementation can be extremely rewarding both practically and economically.