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Views from the Inside: A successful BYOD policy is not just about security

By Michelle Drolet
30 Apr 2013

The BYOD trend shows no sign of abating as more and more organizations recognize the potential benefits in terms of cost and convenience. According to a recent surveyby Good Technology, 76 percent of enterprises are now supporting BYOD and the majority of those that still don’t are planning to do so in the near future. When we look closer, we find that 75 percent of those supporting BYOD employ at least 2,000 people, and 46 percent have 10,000 or more employees.

Large organizations and companies can be impatient to adopt new trends, especially when they potentially offer a competitive edge, but patience is a virtue. A rush to roll out BYOD without proper consideration of the impact can end in disaster.

Security is not the only concern

Most conversations about BYOD tend to focus on the specter of security as the main obstacle to overcome, but for large organizations there is another major hurdle. A recent Brocade White Paperfocusing on BYOD policies found that “50 to 90 percent of BYOD projects fail or suffer significant delays due to a singular focus on security.” The cost is realized in help desk calls, user complaints, network issues, and an inevitable drop in morale.

So, what is being overlooked? Inevitably it’s the increased demands on the infrastructure. You wouldn’t buy thousands of new computers and expect to hook them up to your existing network without some impact on your bandwidth, but that’s exactly what large organizations are doing when they open up access for thousands of employee-owned smartphones, tablets, and laptops. You will need to add more wireless bandwidth.

The key to BYOD success

There are two steps to ensure your new BYOD policy is launched successfully. Start with the infrastructure. It needs to be able to handle the increased workload reliably, and your IT department must have easy access to manage it. This will involve learning new skills for your IT staff and may encompass sophisticated corporate governance solutions. The important thing is to devise a strategy and take the time to implement it properly before you go live.

When you have a plan for the infrastructure, you can move onto security and consider user and device identification and authentication, MDM tools and policies, and any compliance issues that may crop up. If you can bake your security strategy into the overall design, rather than apply it on top as a separate layer, then you’re likely to feel the benefit down the line. This will also make it easier to monitor and enforce your policy.

Infrastructure challenges to consider

There is a lot to think about when you are developing a BYOD infrastructure. Your IT department must be able to monitor your network bandwidth and scale it as needed based on current and projected usage. Application and desktop virtualization will make the whole system more manageable for the IT department and help to deal with compatibility issues which can arise with a range of different devices and platforms. If resources can be compartmentalized on the network then it’s easier to restrict access and maintain security standards.

NAC (Network Access Control) is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle because it allows the IT department to monitor all of the devices connected to your network and provide relevant access after devices and/or users have been identified and authenticated. Depending on your organization, it may also be important to consider guest access and how that might be handled. Network segmentation with central oversight and control will ensure that no one has access to anything that they shouldn’t.

Embrace the challenge

Like so many challenges in business, the earlier you address the problems presented by BYOD and devise a big picture strategy, the greater your chances of building a smooth running and successful system that offers a consistently good user experience. By carefully considering infrastructure and security together, you can achieve a scalable solution that will cope with the future demands of your growing business, not just your current needs.

Security is a vital part of any BYOD strategy, but you ignore infrastructure at your peril.

By Michelle Drolet, founder and CEO, Towerwall
Special to Boston Business Journal

This article was recently published in Boston Business Journal