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Taming Consumer Devices In Business

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As consumerisation blurs the lines of personal and professional, Comtact’s Dominic List looks at ways to cope

The past few years have seen IT managers keen to lock down their networks in an effort to safeguard against the threats posed by unsecured employee devices; however, this trend seems to be reversing. A recent study revealed that a third of UK businesses are planning to implement Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work schemes.

Gone are the days of companies getting away with using single-vendor infrastructures. Consumer technology has evolved, resulting in a new generation of employees who have grown up with the freedom to enjoy a range of connected devices (from smart phones and PDAs to Xboxes) now entering the workforce.

The Y generation wants more

Representing the future of industry, this so-called Generation Y is not only bright and tech-savvy, but also increasingly demanding. They expect to be able to switch seamlessly between Facebook and work, from calendars to YouTube, all of which means that consumer devices are now encroaching on the business network.

To anyone working within the industry, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are reaching the point where IT managers and directors must accommodate this shift within their overall strategy. They need to learn to embrace this new way of operating or, at the very least, find a way of working around it. Perhaps this is why research recently undertaken by Aberdeen Group revealed that “bring your own device” policies have been implemented in as many as 75 percent of enterprises.

For the IT Director, this is rather more easily said than done. The task of opening up a network is accompanied by the dilemma of having to strike a balance between the desire to offer access and the need for control.

There have been a number of high profile cases where companies have misjudged this balance and have suffered as a result. The example of the T-Mobile employee, prosecuted for selling the personal details of thousands of customers to rival companies, is a case in point. Compatibility issues, particularly surrounding connectivity (an example of which being the iPad not working with certain applications or web browsers), further complicate the process.

A struggle to secure data

This creates a great deal of work and presents a very real problem for IT directors, more and more of whom are turning to wireless networking to solve it. At present, most corporate IT departments use basic wireless functionality. As a result, companies need to be asking a number of questions at the access layer – how does the network currently operate? How could it be used to incorporate multiple devices? And how can they regulate and police them as well? These are some of the recurring issues that we are helping many of our clients work around.

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