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An open letter regarding BYOD programs

In response to my latest post, "I have an iPad. Now how do I get it on the corporate wireless network?", a reader posted an interesting opinion stating, in part, "Large companies will never be able or willing to risk allowing BYODs onto their secure networks."

I started typing a reply to his comment when I realized that the content might be better served as its own post. So here's my reply.


Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

I do think that it will take some industries longer than others to migrate to a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategy. Financial services and the Department of Defense are two examples that immediately come to mind.

However, I believe that many large companies are already starting to migrate to this model. A cool (and scary) example is healthcare. They have tons of governance around security and privacy, yet are early adopters of many facets of technology, including BYOD plans. Many specialists (anesthesiologists, radiologists, etc.) are not even employed by the hospitals they work in. Oftentimes, they are organized into their own private practices that contract for one or more facilities. In cases like these, the laptops, tablet PCs, and other devices are owned by the practice -- or even the doctors themselves. Yet they obviously leverage the hospital's infrastructure.

Many people said the same thing about wireless LANs -- that large companies would never deploy them because of the risk involved. They are now nearly pervasive. To continue with the wireless LAN example, companies even had control of devices such as the access points because they were part of the infrastructure. You may argue that large companies will never allow BYOD for exactly this reason -- that they aren't within their span of control.

However, I think they will have to adapt to BYOD because of how personal these devices are to the user. The next generation workforce will demand to bring their own technology, or they will simply choose to work somewhere else. Companies that want the best talent will figure this out sooner rather than later.

It's certainly an interesting debate. In my opinion, one of the main inhibitors towards BYOD programs is the complexity of securely migrating mobile devices onto the network. I think many different groups are trying to address the ease-of-use issue.

Security vendors are trying to make 802.1X/RADIUS transactions more user friendly. WLAN infrastructure vendors are baking more identity-based security into their products to segment access to the network based not only on who the user is, but on what device they are using (as well as their location, the time of day, etc). And mobile device manufactures are working to mature the native security capabilities of their equipment.

In the meantime, there is a huge near-term opportunity for companies such as Cloudpath, who I interviewed at INTEROP, (and others) to bridge the gap by making a secure mobile device provisioning process easy for network administrators and transparent to the end user.

Just my $0.02.



Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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