Bringing Order to the Chaos of BYOD
January 17, 2013
Patrick Hubbard
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When it was the de-facto business standard, BlackBerrys provided two great benefits. First, they provided new communication capabilities that transformed the way professionals work. But for the IT team, they did something even better: providing a standardized platform with great management tools. Say what you will about the BES server, you could instantly reach out and admin any device, anywhere. Its major shortcoming wasn’t that RIM failed to innovate, (though that didn’t help), it was that it was expensive and effectively an IT tax on every connected employee.

It was a brilliant product strategy that generated revenue for RIM in a way no other BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) solution has managed to duplicate. Initially, a couple of geeks in IT, or more often Ops, got RIM devices which were then noticed by a techie senior exec. That then drove executive adoption, and for that you wanted a BES. Once the BES was in place, then you were a single solution organization - RIM. Every new user bought hardware and a BES seat. Budget managers were forced to accept it.

Rewind to 2008 when a few techie, often marketing people, started showing up with iPhone3s. They were connected enough with a friendly IT admin to get WiFi access. Techie execs saw them and said they wanted them too and “best of all”, said the first adopter, “you don’t need a BES server and I’ll pay for my own device”. Once the budget tsar got wind of that, BlackBerry was done. Unfortunately, so were the days of easy device administration.

Apple and Microsoft saw an opportunity and quickly worked together to make the iOS/Exchange Active Sync at least marginally useful to IT, allowing the budget office to counter the IT manageability argument. IT relented and opened some Guest SSIDs.

As with any shiny new technology that changes the world in a rush, this has produced a growing problem for IT managers. Few organizations believe they have an adequate BYOD management plan and it’s further compounded by the ever-increasing MDM (Mobile Device Management) problem that had already been an issue for some time.

In fact, in a recent SolarWinds-Network World Survey over 65% of IT organizations don’t feel confident that they have an adequate mobile device strategy in place.

Network and Systems admins work together as best they can to manage roving nodes, but most tools and techniques are limited to access control and bandwidth optimization. Even assuming you get those under control, there is still a long list of other concerns, from how many devices will actually show up, to ever changing app traffic mix, network and application security risks and even potential HR issues from content accessed on the company provided guest-network. So then, what can IT do today, to bring order to the chaos?

1. Get a handle on what’s connecting where with user device tracking software. It’s a switch port mapper for the mobile age.

2. Use your current system’s network monitoring and traffic analyzer to make sure the BYOD secondary SSID/subnet isn’t hogging the bandwidth for notebooks and other corporate mobile devices .

3. Determine how various users and departments are using mobile devices today and what they want to do in the future. Make sure usage is compatible with your organization's security policies.

BYOD has a bright future and there’s no question as techies, heck, as people, we prefer to select our own mobile device. For many of us it’s the single object we interact with more than anything else during the day. With a little planning and use of existing monitoring and management technologies, organizations can resolve many of their issues with BYOD. Who knows, one day we might even see a few BlackBerry Z10s playing nice on the same infrastructure as iOS and Androids.

ABOUT Patrick Hubbard

Patrick Hubbard is a Senior Technical Product Marketing Manager and Head Geek at SolarWinds. He joined SolarWinds in 2007 and combines 20 years of technical expertise with IT customer perspective to create geeky content that speaks to fellow networking and systems professionals. Hubbard’s previous roles have included product management and strategy, technical evangelism, sales engineering and software development in Austin high-tech and Fortune 500 companies.

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