BYOD: A world of pain awaits IT

Seasoned IT pros discuss the slings and arrows IT must endure to embrace bring-your-own-device policies

Want to let your employees use the device of their own choice for business duties? Then be prepared for risks and pain, says a prominent IT official steeped in the practice of supporting BYOD (bring your own device) policies in the enterprise.

At a peer-based conference aimed at sharing tips on how to navigate the consumerization of IT, Seng Ing, senior network engineer at KLA-Tencor, warned IT colleagues that the BYOD phenomenon brings with it a set of issues companies must face, particularly in the areas of device management, security, resource accessibility, and network connectivity.

"In reality BYOD is hard to implement, and it's hard to support," Seng said during a panel at this week's CITE (Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise) conference. BYOD, he added, is bound to bring "problems that don't even exist yet."

BYOD "is too hard to secure and may not be supportable in the long run," Ing claimed. In the wake of BYOD, IT needs to prepare for questions such as what to do when employees leave the company with corporate data still on their personal devices.

"The data and the devices will not clean themselves," Ing said.

Ing was not alone at CITE in emphasizing potential difficulties around security and BYOD.

Brad Wright, vice president of IT integrated customer services at Jacobs Engineering, cited potential risks to his company's protected client information, which could even involve data related to a nuclear energy facility.

"It is risk that we're worried about but not so much the financial risks," Wright says. "It's more the credibility with our clients." Wright, though, believes BYOD is inevitable for most organizations. "It's our task to embrace it; it's our task to [figure out] how to deal with it."

Security was not the only concern expressed by the IT pros on hand. IT must also gauge which services are accessible from all device types and whether services are displayed correctly on all device types.

"You will learn that many of your apps were not designed [for devices]," Ing said, adding that network connectivity is another issue to address with BYOD. Ing, whose company accommodates BYOD to the tune of 8,000 devices worldwide, recommends Wi-Fi access, calling it cheaper than 3G and 4G data plans. But he notes he is not aware of one single solution for managing the plethora of devices, such as RIM BlackBerry and Android.

When it comes to BYOD, there is always the problem of users themselves, as Ing stressed the need for IT to educate employees by creating self-help documents and FAQs, offering training, and providing the right tools.

Organizations should also maintain good relationships with device vendors and cherry-pick which devices to support. For example, BYOD gives organizations a means to adopt SaaS and cloud-based services faster than may have otherwise been realized, Ing said.

As far as which devices are the most appropriate, Ing cited Android as problematic because there are simply too many models to track. Apple's iOS, he said, is "by far the best device to promote and manage."

IT, welcome to the brave new world of BYOD and managing data output and services to devices not necessarily of your own choosing. While your employer might save a few bucks allowing employees to buy and bring their own devices, you will be left to grapple with the myriad issues BYOD brings.

You might as well get started. The pain may very well be coming your way, whether you're ready or not.

This article, "BYOD: A world of pain awaits IT," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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