Driven by the introduction of new technology and the desire to increase employee productivity, employers are embracing bring-your-own-device [BYOD] policies. By 2016, Gartner expects 38 per cent of companies to stop providing devices to workers. Whether in the office, at home or working remotely, BYOD allows for effortless device connectivity and exchange of data and information anywhere, anytime.
The benefits are clear for companies: increased flexibility and productivity for staff, and increased profitability for the business. Employees gain privileges in mobility and freedom to choose from a wide range of devices and applications. More than 70 per cent of mobile professionals will conduct their work on personal smart devices by 2018, according to Forrester Research. For MSPs, the opportunities are growing significantly.
While there are benefits to employees using personal devices, organisations are experiencing numerous challenges. The complexity of managing multiple-platform devices obscures the movement's benefits, forcing companies to weigh the costs of providing secure access to a corporate network and implementing measures to avoid potential hazards.
The real inhibitor for uptake is not necessarily the security implications of applying a BYOD solution or policy. It's about balancing costs between increased flexibility and the management and control of personally owned devices.
With so many companies willing to adopt BYOD strategies, serious thought should be put into device management. Employees tend to have both laptops and mobile phones, which means two separate devices to manage. On top of this, it's not only the device that must be managed, it's the applications on it as well.
Before managing devices connected to a corporate network, you need to discover and inventory all the devices. There is also the challenge of understanding what software is installed, what versions they are, and whether software patches are up to date.
The SANS institute found that more than half of organisations already rely on employees to protect personally owned devices. This points to the fact that companies are not taking the management of devices in-house, or at all.
The options are to increase the internal IT team's responsibility to manage BYOD alongside their day-to-day activities, invest in specialist BYOD software for the IT team to manage, or outsource the management of personally owned devices to a third party.
The latter is proving popular. According to a June 2015 survey from Daisy, more than a third of mid-market firms plan to outsource their IT environments to managed service providers (MSPs) in the next five years.
For those who choose the outsourced route as an MSP, you'll be managing these devices. It's simply impossible to send out technicians or engineers to a customer site to fix problems and deliver device inventory, patch management, and deployment of software packages. If the client is geographically dispersed, these tasks should be done remotely via the cloud.
One of our MSP partners, Plan B Professional Services, is charged with managing the IT environment for an oil and gas shipping and logistics firm. The customer has nearly 1,300 users working across 90 sites in 20 countries. Like many international organisations, Plan B's customer suffered from IT sprawl with too many devices (mostly mobile) either unused and idle or at various stages in the refresh cycle. A large number of devices were purchased outside the organisation, creating a shadow IT with staff accustomed to downloading and using their own software. The internal IT team not only found it difficult to keep track of software in use, which was being duplicated and creating a cost burden, but also struggled with software maintenance rollout that was manual and slow.
Traditional device management products tend to rely on agents, permanent software that resides on the employee's device. Many employees and IT will likely balk at this for being cumbersome, so device management needs to be unobtrusive yet thorough.
Having a device management solution that relies on dissolving clients can alleviate these pressures. Once the task of updating software is finished, the cloud management tool's client will automatically remove itself from the device.
Dissolving clients provide the best of both worlds. Organisations can be happy knowing all devices connected to their network are securely managed, and employees are able to continue using personal devices without worrying that third-party software will remain on their device.
With an unlimited selection of applications and cloud services, older company-owned and operated devices no longer seem to resonate with employees today who expect more flexibility and freedom in exchange for increased productivity. The short-term benefits of BYOD deployment, for both employer and employee, are well documented, but the uptake can be halted by the challenges it brings.
Companies are considering BYOD in droves and they are already examining the potential advantages it brings to how workforces remotely connect, securely collaborate and continuously engage. As an MSP, you can take away the challenges from organisations looking at BYOD so they can focus on its benefits.
Ashley Leonard is chief executive of Verismic
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