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Enlisting the help of infrastructure to cope with the BYOD explosion

By Abigail Strong, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Aerohive Networks, special to Network World
August 31, 2012 09:53 AM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Mobility is one of the key drivers of technology today, but now users are not only connecting corporate-issued laptops, but also a bevy of bring-your-own devices. Over 80% of workers surveyed bring personal devices to work, and 80% of those users are connecting them to the corporate network for work-related activities.

A sampling of BYOD user policies

This onslaught of consumer mobile devices forces IT to address connectivity, security and productivity concerns when architecting the infrastructure. Ensuring the devices can connect securely and efficiently is necessary to avoid overburdening IT staff and network resources, and once the devices are connected to the network, ensuring the devices can be productive is critical to supporting and managing these devices.

One of the biggest challenges when dealing with this explosion of smart mobile devices in the enterprise is defining what the policy is for connecting the devices to the network. Many users and administrators use "BYOD" to refer to any consumer device connected to the network. The reality is "BYOD" really only refers to devices brought in by end users to connect to the network, rather than those that are distributed by IT.

It is important to make this distinction because there is a parallel initiative facing many IT departments, dubbed the "Consumerization of IT", where IT may distribute consumer-grade devices such as tablets to lower hardware costs and increase productivity for dedicated applications like retail kiosks or electronic medical records (EMR).

In both cases, the administrator must be able to rely on network intelligence to embrace the inherent cost savings and flexibility built into these devices and contain exactly how, where and when the devices are used on the network. A comprehensive mobile device solution will need to address both Consumerization of IT and BYOD in order to support, contain and embrace the mobile device explosion.

There are really two major options when attempting to manage mobile devices connecting to the corporate network. On one side of the spectrum, there are Mobile Device Management solutions that rely on software (also known as an agent or profile) installed on the client device to implement device level controls, security parameters, and distribute resource information.

These solutions are often implemented when consumer devices are deployed by IT for a specific purpose, and when the devices need to be fully monitored, managed, controlled, and supported by IT. However, often times these software-based solutions are not palatable to end users bringing their own devices because the threat of having personal data removed or wiped from the device is not acceptable to the end user.

This means administrators must be able to rely on the network infrastructure to control devices where a software solution cannot be installed. This is the other major option for controlling and managing devices connecting to the corporate network - using the network infrastructure to implement access controls based on the identity, device type, location, and time of connection.

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