The UK market is experiencing device usage the likes of which we have never seen. The growing popularity of smartphones, tablets and low-cost netbooks means many organisations are now experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of wireless-enabled devices being used to access their corporate networks.
More of today’s enterprise workforce simply expect that personal devices - including but not exclusively iPhones and iPads - will simply work on the organisational wireless infrastructure, but the reality of achieving this is far from straightforward.
While many enterprises have made a conscious effort to expand their plans for Wi-Fi network deployments and upgrades, the growing popularity of a range of consumer-oriented or smart mobile devices has made a huge impact on end users’ expectations of wireless networking. And this is driving demand for better connectivity in all types of organisation.
That being said, it is the sudden influx of these personal devices that can cause significant problems for IT staff and end users alike. Configuration can be time consuming and the right management processes are needed - and then there are those seemingly endless data security concerns.
While the consumerisation issue is creeping further up the enterprise agenda, VARs should be aware that it is a challenge with which both the education and hospitality sectors are already well acquainted.
The rise of e-learning and social media has meant web-enabled devices have become an integral part of university life, for example. Students and even their guests bring their smartphones and laptops to campuses in their droves these days. This has ensured the demand for anywhere, anytime internet access has become impossible for institutions to ignore.
Equally, hotel guests and conference delegates increasingly expect reliable connectivity throughout their chosen premises as a standard part of the package when they book a room or conference hall.
While Wi-Fi demand and adoption in the enterprise has never been greater, the uptake of such advanced devices is clearly creating security headaches for employers. There is no question businesses need reliable wireless offerings that can deliver more bandwidth and ubiquitous coverage of the entire enterprise, without compromising on performance.
But, most importantly, they also need wireless offerings that are not too difficult for IT departments to manage. Without this functionality, the corporate network quickly turns into a liability, with IT teams being sucked into resource-related nightmares. IT managers cannot be expected to configure every new device being placed in a building to work both securely on the network and simply for the user.
Resellers need to home in on scalable, secure offerings. They need the ability to streamline the provisioning of smart mobile devices to help IT teams deal with the barrage of personal Wi-Fi-enabled devices hitting corporate networks. This is key to not only helping organisations support their workforce, but ensuring sensitive information is not leaked.
Offerings that can automatically provision wireless device settings such as SSIDs and unique pre-shared keys on mobile devices, while also conditioning other wireless authentication and security parameters, will be in strong demand.
The personal versus corporate situation will always create security concerns too -whether physical or virtual. Channel partners must be quick to reassure organisations technology is available that can restrict access to the right users.
Should any wireless networking device with access to the corporate network be lost or stolen, for example, IT departments will need the capability to render the offending device inoperable. This can be done either through IT action or by making a request to the employee’s service provider.
Ultimately, however, it will be difficult to avoid having consumer devices in an enterprise environment. But many would argue that, despite the challenges, there are huge advantages to merging the consumer and the corporate worlds here.
The key will be in finding the technologies that ease the headaches for IT departments, and for the channel to offer best-practice advice that really does make life simpler for both the employees and IT staff of their customers’ organisations.
Jim Calderbank is director of enterprise sales for EMEA at Ruckus Wireless
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