Bring Your Own Device… Or Disaster

Industry CIOs see it as the key to unleashing productivity, but it keeps the finance team up all night fretting over costs. Then there’s corporate network security to consider, along with the legal implications of losing control of company data. That’s bring-your-own-device (BYOD) in a nutshell: an emerging industry trend peppered with pros and cons, and also capable of unleashing vital business benefits as it is likely to put your entire corporate network at risk of a security breach – depending on who you listen to.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that a BYOD policy can do more than simply offer CAPEX savings to budget-conscious organisations. For example, a new VMware study has found that BYOD has the potential to create a more highly motivated workforce – and in turn unleash productivity. VMware’s ‘New Way of the World’ study surveyed more than 2,000 employees from multinational companies across 10 Asia Pacific countries.

It found that 38-percent of respondents thought their day-to-day efficiency was negatively impacted by ‘strict corporate IT policies’ and that they were consequently less productive at solving work and business problems. In addition, 71-percent of APJ respondents said they were spending more time working outside of the office than before, and felt they’d achieve more at work if allowed to use their own devices and apps.

However, the country breakdown of the study makes for interesting reading. Not unexpectedly, South Korean respondents recorded the highest incidence of BYOD (96-percent), with Thailand (90-percent) and Hong Kong (89-percent) close behind. But while other countries said that BYOD, once implemented, was unleashing improved work efficiency, only 40-percent of Australian respondents felt the same way – the lowest result of the 10 countries polled.

In Malaysia itself, 82-percent of the 209 respondents surveyed, said they bring personal devices to work with 91-percent having workplaces that are aware of it. However, 69-percent indicated that their IT departments do not support these devices, and as such they aren’t able to effectively use them in the workplace. In Australia, some 79-percent of respondents maintained this was the case as well. So are organisations truly ready – or even willing – to embrace this model?

Alcatel-Lucent ANZ enterprise MD Mark Buckley says that many of the customers he deals with still have their heads in the sand on BYOD. “They don’t want to accept any of this new stuff and they use security and risk of intellectual property as their main reason why. You look at that and it’s restricting the ability of their company to collaborate and harness the people; however, they’ve taken a stand and they’ll probably continue for a number of years,” he said.

“Then there’s others who are starting to look at what they could do; they’re looking at policies they have to put in place… they’re good to work with because they’re doing it where it makes sense versus the guys that have gone ‘yee-ha, let’s go’ – they might stumble on the consequences later and it may have a real financial impact to them.”

ShoreTel , a unified communications solutions provider, is one company looking to cash in on this emerging BYOD trend. Regional director for Australasia Jamie Romanin said that while the firm’s unified communications IP telephony solution is currently driving 75-percent of core revenues today, ShoreTel is increasingly looking to mobility following its 2010 acquisition of Agito Networks. “Mobility is the most emerging solution that we have. Literally every single CIO at any enterprise organisation I talk to, they want to talk about mobility; they’re defining a strategy around BYOD and how to leverage mobile applications within their own business,” he says.

“Surprisingly, a lot of those CIOs have timeframes of 12-24 months that they want to have something implemented and running within their business. We’ve got leading edge technology as far as our mobile applications are concerned, and we’re getting some really good traction.”

BYOD certainly has the potential to have an impact on corporate network bandwidth, with the new iPad just one of many data-intensive consumer devices now flowing into the workplace. And employers appear, at least, to be aware of this.

A new Brocade survey of 120 IT decision makers found that that 23-percent were extremely concerned, 69-percent somewhat concerned and 28-percent not concerned about the impact of mobile devices on corporate network bandwidth. Brocade ANZ regional manager Graham Schultz says that while many businesses are aware of what a BYOD policy can do to their network, that doesn’t mean they’re prepared for it. “

While progress has definitely been made, generally most organisations are still struggling to keep pace and deal with this proliferation of devices and the additional demands it places on the network infrastructure,” he says.

“[But] customers accept that the trend towards user control is inevitable, and they are working hard to ensure that company assets are protected, while providing the necessary flexibility and demands of the user.”

Buckley says that many employers are simply trying to sate what is an enormous consumerisation demand. “And a lot of that’s coming from the senior people who come in and say ‘make my iPad work’. It’s making IT teams actually do something – which is great, because consumerisation provides a lot of innovation – but they’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t blow out costs or put at risk the security of their systems.”

Security is certainly a key concern in context of the BYOD trend. A global study on mobility risks sponsored by Websense and conducted by the Ponemon institute polled more than more than 4,600 IT and IT security practitioners in twelve countries; 51-percent of respondent organisations said they’d experienced data loss resulting from employee use of unsecured mobile devices.

“85-percent of organisations recognise that there is an increased level of risk, but only a third actually said they’d got an appropriate security policy in place… the adoption of the technology is [being lagged by] implementation of the appropriate policy,” commented Websense regional sales director Gerry Tucker. “You have to control the device, you have to have things like passport management and the ability to wipe it, etc. But fundamentally, from a business perspective, it’s about controlling the data – where it goes, how it goes there.”

Schultz, meanwhile, points to Network Access Control solutions, which he says can help manage this. “In addition there are many security solutions – e.g. McAfee – to provide deeper levels of control over what the iPad user can access based on certain profiles that can be established,” he adds.

Ultimately, it could be just that many organisations just aren’t ready for BYOD – there are those that just ban any device that isn’t deployed by them and are actively resisting. There are also those who think it’s inevitable and go ahead and implement it.

It appears that BYOD is in its very essence a juggling act. But businesses can look forward to enjoying a host of productivity benefits – as long as they understand the likely technological and financial outcomes. – Adapted from

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