In Cisco’s latest Global IT Impact Survey, 41 percent of respondents said their networks aren’t ready to support BYOD policies. According to one Cisco spokesperson, this doesn’t mean organizations have shunned the BYOD concept—it means the trend is moving faster than corporate networks are evolving.
Ahmed Etman, Cisco Canada’s VP of borderless networks, explains that BYOD is fraught with challenges such as having to write comprehensive policies that protect the organization’s data, but give users reasonably easy access to company information from personal mobile devices. Nonetheless, from Etman’s point of view, organizations are embracing the idea.
“Most organizations have some form of BYOD,” he says.
How, then, to explain the 41 percent who said their networks aren’t ready? Etman says many organizations are experiencing BYOD growing pains.
“What we’re going through now is the strain on IT departments—how to manage the growth of BYOD,” he says. “It’s a matter of how to take this to the next level.”
According to Etman, reaching the next level will mean developing an integrated network that uses a single policy and management architecture across wired and wireless infrastructure. Many organizations still operate separate wired and wireless systems, making it difficult to provide secure yet flexible access from personal mobile devices. The IT department has to run duplicate authentication mechanisms and policies—and it’s a challenge to ensure those measures match. By consolidating networks, organizations do away with the overhead of managing dual authentication platforms.
Network convergence it isn’t the only piece in the puzzle. Consider the State of Delaware’s experience with BYOD. It suggests that while organizations can benefit from BYOD, growing and sustaining BYOD programs requires that IT departments consider two issues: employees’ use of mobile devices, and economic realities for communications service providers.
According to a White House case study, the Delaware government initiated BYOD to reduce the financial and operational burden of managing some 2,500 mobile devices.
In Delaware’s voluntary BYOD system, eligible employees (as determined by their supervisors) receive a monthly reimbursement to cover the costs of state-related business conducted via personal mobile devices. Other employees submit expenses for reimbursement case by case.
So far, the results are promising. For the 1,000 employees in the program, the state has reduced expenses associated with mobile devices by 45 percent, which spells a 15 percent reduction in the government’s overall wireless costs.
But here’s the tricky part: the government now finds it difficult to grow the program, thanks to certain aspects of communications-industry economics. In the U.S., wireless carriers used to offer unlimited data packages, but have started introducing limits as they struggle to meet mobile bandwidth demand. At the same time, Delaware doesn’t provide additional reimbursement when employees exceed their data maximums. So employees are less willing to use their personal devices for work; if they overdo it on data, they’ll have to pay out of their own pockets.
Delaware’s quandary is less of a concern for most Canadian organizations. Carriers in this country have never been quite as keen to offer unlimited data plans as U.S. service providers. However organizations introducing BYOD still need to consider the two (potentially conflicting) issues that Delaware faces: employee usage patterns and bandwidth constraints. These insights can help organizations understand how to best design their BYOD programs for long-term sustainability.