by Shahin Pirooz
BYOD sounds like a recipe for
happy hour. But in today’s enterprise environment, BYOD – or bring your own
device – is less than a happy occasion for the IT staff.
Executives and employees alike are
purchasing their own iPhones, iPads and Android-based smartphones and tablets,
and increasingly using these devices for both work and pleasure. As a result, a
figurative tidal wave of employee-owned mobile devices is flooding the
enterprise workspace. There are distinct benefits to employees using devices
with which they’re comfortable – they improve productivity and employee
satisfaction. And BYOD is enabling enterprises to reduce their mobile
Despite these advantages,
allowing employees to use their personal devices can introduce a number of
complexities for the enterprise IT staff. Not only does it add to the tasks of
already-overburdened IT employees, but if not managed properly BYOD can
introduce security concerns and require greater in-house expertise for support
and management of a wider array of technology.
But there is a way for
enterprises to enable – and even encourage – a BYOD strategy while simplifying
processes for the IT department. Cloud-based solutions have proven to be an
effective way for an enterprise to deliver the necessary security and
integration required to incorporate employee-owned devices into the work
environment, simplify the workload for the IT staff, and make it easier for
employees to access all applications the same way, irrespective of the device
they are using at any given time.
The Consumer Mobile Revolution
Since the first iPhone was
released in 2007, the demand for smartphones – and more recently tablets – has increased
dramatically. In fact, Business Insider
calculated that in 2011, the sales of smartphones and tablets eclipsed the sale
of PCs for the first time in history. And by 2016, the research firm estimates
the sales of these mobile devices will be approximately five times greater than
that of PCs.
With this mobile revolution
underway, it’s not surprising that consumer technologies are finding their way
into the enterprise. Not too long ago, it was customary for an employee to be
issued a company-owned mobile phone and/or laptop computer. But the fast-moving
changes in technology adoption have altered the paradigm significantly. Now
choices in technology are being driven by employees themselves, particularly as
younger employees enter the workforce and bring with them the iPhone, iPad or
smartphone that they’ve been using for years.
Driving Complexities in Enterprise IT
The biggest problem with employees bringing this
new mobile technology into the work environment, however, stems from the fact that
the devices were not designed with enterprise requirements in mind. To support
a BYOD strategy, enterprise IT departments must overcome a number of
- Device Management. Because the enterprise
does not own the device, its ability to manage the device is hampered. In
addition, new versions of existing devices are being constantly released,
making it even more difficult for IT staff to keep up with the rapid pace
- Device Lock-Out. There are a number of
consumer features on Apple and Android devices that cannot be altered by
the IT department, making it difficult for them to gain full control over
the device to meet enterprise requirements.
- Security. Because of device lock-out, IT
staff can have difficulty ensuring the proper level of security on the
device and segmenting out the corporate data for encryption so that it
cannot be accessed if the mobile device is lost or stolen.
- Lifecycle Management. When an employee
leaves the company, the enterprise IT staff needs to make sure that they
can remove the corporate information without eliminating the employee’s
personal content – such as pictures and contacts. The strategy of just
“wiping” the device clean and deleting all content is not an option in the
new BYOD world.
the Challenges via the Cloud
Cloud-based solutions available today can play an important
role in enabling IT to effectively manage employee-owned mobile devices so they
adhere to corporate policies and give employees the freedom to select their
Cloud solutions enable IT departments to take a more holistic
approach to device management, because, ultimately, a smartphone or a tablet is
just another type of end point – and it should be treated as such. Deploying
any technology or strategy that treats them differently can be confusing and
complicate end-point management. No matter what device an employee is using,
the IT staff should be able to see the security posture of a specific user,
device or site – a task that cloud solutions can easily and cost-effectively
There are some general questions an enterprise should ask
when seeking a cloud provider for addressing BYOD challenges:
the cloud provider innovative? With the technology landscape evolving so
quickly, does the cloud provider have a track record and strategy to
provide a best-in-class toolset and solution that meets – and can keep up
with – the market need?
kind of experience does it have? How long has the cloud provider been
offering end-point management and security, and is BYOD a natural
extension of its core competencies?
end point management be integrated? Does the cloud provider manage all types of end points, and can it
provide the IT staff with visibility into the security posture from a
the cloud provider offer customer support? Because questions will no doubt
arise as the IT staff tries to keep up with fast-changing technology, does
the cloud provider offer 24x7 support and does it have the expertise to be
a trusted advisor for navigating the inevitable changes?
Other technical factors also play into the selection of an
appropriate cloud provider to support a BYOD strategy. For instance, a cloud
provider should be able to support a wide array of mobile platforms – from Apple
iOS and Google Android to Nokia Symbian, Windows Phone and Windows Mobile. It
should be able to deliver location services. And, it should offer:
- Device management, such as selective or full wipe, denial of
e-mail access, remote lock, and user notification capabilities.
- Application management, including enabling application
inventory, whitelisting, blacklisting and development of an enterprise app
store to ensure corporate applications meet the company’s performance
- Enterprise access management, supporting configuration of email,
VPN and Wi-Fi.
- Policy and Security management, which includes giving the
enterprise the ability to determine and support its own password policies,
device encryption, jailbreak and root detection.
By finding a cloud provider that offers these capabilities,
that has the experience in end-point management and that can offer customer
support in a rapidly changing technology environment, an IT staff can easily
balance the challenges that BYOD introduces into the enterprise environment
with the employees’ desire to use the mobile devices to which they have become
Shahin Pirooz is the CTO
and CSO at CenterBeam. www.centerbeam.com