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BYOD: 'the inmates of the asylum have control'

IT pros surveyed by Network World and SolarWinds shared a range of tactics for handling the mobile device management challenge

By , Network World
April 17, 2012 06:02 AM ET

Network World - Mobile devices are multiplying and -- sanctioned or unsanctioned -- finding their way onto corporate networks. For IT pros, the influx of personal mobile devices to the corporate network is raising security concerns, creating management challenges, and swamping the help desk with support calls.

In a survey of 400 IT pros jointly conducted by Network World and SolarWinds, respondents shared a wide range of tactics for handling the mobile device management challenge.

For starters, the majority of survey respondents said their companies issue mobile devices that can access the corporate network, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. RIM BlackBerry devices, iPhones and Android devices are among the most common corporate-issued smartphones, cited by 48%, 45.7% and 38.4% of respondents, respectively (multiple responses allowed). Windows Mobile devices are issued by 14.4% of respondents.

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Just 15.1% said their companies don't issue mobile devices with network access. Tellingly, some of the respondents whose companies don't issue mobile devices said there's opportunity for end users to bring personal devices to work -- the bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, trend -- and receive support from corporate IT.

"We provide a monthly stipend where users can BYOD for smartphones. We support iPhone, RIM and Android devices," one respondent said.

"We don't issue mobile devices, but users who own their own mobile devices can access the corporate network once they have received IT permission," another respondent said.

The BYOD trend is not universally embraced, however.

In the pro-BYOD camp, 59.3% of respondents say there are no device restrictions when it comes to employee-owned devices that are allowed to access the corporate network. (Access is often limited to specific Web applications or segregated virtual networks, however.)

Among the remainder of respondents who restrict specific personal mobile devices from accessing corporate resources, there was no one device type that's universally banned. Respondents were nearly equally likely to not allow Android (26.6%), iOS (22.8%), RIM BlackBerry (22.3%) and Windows Mobile devices (24.5%)

When asked why companies decided not to allow specific personal mobile devices, responses varied. Many were absolute: "If it is not company-owned, it does not touch our network," one respondent stated. Another said there's "no need to have personal devices on the network when the company provides every resource necessary to do your job."

Respondents frequently expressed security concerns and IT support challenges. They cited the potential for loss of confidential information via personal devices; legal issues and regulatory compliance risks; the introduction of malware threats; and the management burden associated with supporting diverse device types. (See our sampling of BYOD user policies.

If employees use personal devices to access the corporate network, "in our experience they expect the IT department to also support those devices, and we have a strict policy against supporting devices that we didn't issue," explained one respondent. "We've taken a lot of time and effort to become familiar with specific devices and software, and that's what we expect to be used."

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