Tablets optimize

Test BYOD in your organization with employee tablets

Patrick Gray says that employee tablets could serve as a useful test of tablet computing and BYOD for your company.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) could be one of the most compelling shifts in corporate technology or IT's worst nightmare, depending on whom you believe. The idea is fairly simple: as technology becomes more intimately personal, employees should be allowed to purchase and use their own technology like laptops, phones, and tablets.

Proponents say that since corporate data and applications are increasingly run on servers or private clouds, an employee wanting a fashionable pink laptop or Mac should be able to purchase and use one with minimal impact to IT. Furthermore, this gets IT out of the hardware purchasing and maintenance business.

The counterarguments invoke the usual suspects of any large-scale change in corporate technology infrastructure: security and management. Nearly everyone with some technical skill has encountered the family member or friend with a computer jammed with nefarious software. I recall a family member with a computer so infected that advertisements with less-than-tasteful web sites would begin to pop up as soon as the computer booted, without even touching a single key. IT has a legitimate concern that these types of machines would cause more problems than they would solve when introduced into a corporate network.

While both sides have compelling arguments, what they often lack is valid experimental data. There are companies that have done wildly successful BYOD initiatives -- and likely just as many where the idea failed miserably. Tablets, however, present an opportunity to kill several birds with one stone: performing a low-cost BYOD test in your company, testing multi-platform tablet applications, and allowing a general test of the usefulness of tablet computing.

Purchasing a fleet of shiny new tablets may not fit into your IT budget, but your staff likely already has several tablet-toting individuals, many of whom may already be bringing the devices into work and connecting them with corporate networks. Leveraging this fact lets you test the feasibility of tablets and BYOD simultaneously, which could turn a minor potential nuisance into a beneficial exercise.

Allowing employee-owned devices for this exercise also increases the likelihood that you'll cover most of the big players in the tablet space. While you'll likely find several iOS devices already in the hands of employees, there's also a good chance individuals have Android, RIM, or even HP's ill-fated Touchpad OS available. Looking close to home, your IT employees with these devices likely performed a painstaking analysis on which device to spend their own hard-earned cash on, and they can probably save your department some of the formal research on the nuances among the dozens of different Android tablets, for example.

From a BYOD perspective, tablets represent a relatively low-risk way of experimenting with personal devices on corporate networks. With less capability (and less malicious software), tablets present fewer opportunities for bad software, poor configurations, and nasty viruses or malware. They also have near zero enterprise management capability, so they present an opportunity to see if these capabilities will be sorely missed or deemed largely irrelevant on this type of device. The diversity of tablet operating systems also gives you a great chance to see if everything from internal web sites to corporate applications are ready for tablet computing or will require major overhauls and enhancements.

There's a near 100% chance that employees in your company (and IT in particular) are already bringing tablet devices to work and potentially connecting them to your network and company resources. Rather than spending time to stamp out this practice, co-opt the situation into a useful test of tablet computing and BYOD. You may learn that this could be a highly valuable initiative for your company, or gather the experiential data to back up your claims that employee devices have no place on your network. In either case, you'll also appreciate the capabilities of a broad sample of tablet devices and have a benchmark as to how ready your internal systems are to support tablet computing.

About

Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company, and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology, as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. Patrick has...

8 comments
AG4IT
AG4IT

It's possible to both address security concerns and implement BYOD. What's needed is to separate the Enterprise apps and data from the personal devices. This can be achieved with a solution like Ericom's AccessNow, a pure HTML5 RDP client that enables remote users to securely connect from various devices (including iPads, iPhones, Android devices and Chromebooks) to any RDP host, including Terminal Server (RDS Session Host), physical desktops or VDI virtual desktops and run their applications and desktops in a browser. This keeps the organization's applications and data separate from the employee's personal device. All that's needed is a HTML5 browser. No plug-ins or anything else required on the user device. AccessNow also provides an optional Secure Gateway component enabling external users to securely connect to internal resources using AccessNow, without requiring a VPN. For more info, and to download a demo, visit: http://www.ericom.com/html5_rdp_client.asp?URL_ID=708

don
don

I have to agree that most companies have personal devices in use. While they may not be supported. the employees are using them. Even if they cannot connect to the corporate network, they are using them anyway. It used to be easy to keep personal devices off the network. Employees are getting more technical all the time and they are figuring out ways to get their devices connected. Even if they can't get on the corporate network, they are using 3G or 4G at work. It was also easy to keep those devices away from work when they were much larger and heavier. When laptops were 10 pounds, nobody wanted to carry two of them (one work laptop and one personal laptop). Now with devices as small and light as they are, people will carry them in their bag with their corporate device(s). To make a policy that no employee owned devices can be used in the workplace would result in an employee satisfaction issue. It makes more sense to define what personal devices can and cannot be used for. For instance, why not let an employee use their iPad to take notes in meetings and access email via OWA? You can agrue that those meeting notes are company property, but if they write them down in a paper oraganizer that they purchased you have the same issue. Do you ban employees from using their own paper organizers? Years ago people used to print their calendars and contacts and put them in their organizers. If they left the company, that data went with them. If they lost their organizer, anyone that found it had access to that information. At least if they use a tablet for the same data, it should have a lock code to access it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"The counterarguments invoke the usual suspects of any large-scale change in corporate technology infrastructure: security and management. ... your staff likely already has several tablet-toting individuals, ..." You forgot a couple. One, with today's economy, many people can't afford a new primary computer, much less a secondary device. I don't think anyone on our IT staff has a personally owned tablet, although there are a few e-readers. Two, you're assuming the workplace has the majority of its applications already available as web apps, not still primarily using locally installed programs. "Theres a near 100% chance that employees in your company (and IT in particular) are already bringing tablet devices to work and potentially connecting them to your network and company resources. " Maybe a large percentage of TR members work at locations where they're regularly requested to support connectivity to personal devices. I'd love to see a poll asking about it. I'm only asked once every couple of years, and I'll 100% guaran-damn-tee no one in this facility is using a non-company device on the company network. Me, I try to keep my workplace and personal computing activities and hardware separate.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

wouldn't even allow the majority of us to bring our cellphones to our work area, how would you convince them to allow a personally owned tablet, netbook, or smartphone onto their network? This article is just another in a string of blogs attempting to find some way to shoehorn a tablet into the workplace. Maybe in the future, 5 to 10 years away, but not in the near future. Something quite a number of proponents of BYOD fail to acknowledge...many companies will depreciate the cost of new equipment for tax purposes. If they go with BYOD, that tax write-off is gone.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's all that's needed at the client end. I notice you assume some sort of remote application server is already in place, and don't mention how much new infrastructure would be needed on the back end if not already there..

tommy
tommy

I agree with Don that employees using their devices (phones mainly, but two tablets as well) at work isn't really an issue for us. I've got a broadband package that costs next to nothing that sits completely isolated from the core business systems, and I've no problem with staff using the available wireless connectivity to get online. There's no way I'm going to offer support for any of these devices however, nor will I allow anyone who brings in their personal kit to plug it in to our business network. There's numerous practice and security reasons for that policy. Principle among these is the necessity to maintain data security; corporate data stays on site. Secondly, we've spent thousands of pounds and hundreds of man-hours building gateway and custodial security systems to protect the PC's and servers that run on the network. The last thing I need is for some virally challenged, mal-ware riddled 'home laptop' plugged into the network thereby bypassing all of our firewalls and gateway protection systems.

ScarF
ScarF

"If they left the company, that data went with them" The companies understood this long time ago. There are solutions for capturing as much information from the employees, including the information kept in their heads. For many savvy organizations, capturing the information from the employees became a high-priority necessity. As of employees with enough technical knowledge to connect their owned devices to the company's network, I invite them to try this in my wired and/or wireless networks.

AG4IT
AG4IT

To use AccessNow no additional hardware infrastructure is needed. The AccessNow server software needs to be installed on the Windows systems that the user connects to (a terminal server, virtual desktop or physical Windows PC).