Networking

Wired or wireless: It's not an either/or

Here is an interesting statistic— according to the Yankee Group, nearly 40 percent of today's workforce is mobile—and this number is growing. What does that mean to your organization? To some, it means staunchly refusing to face what's in front of you, and continuing to act as if wireless is something that you have to deal with only on a fringe basis.

Unfortunately, I see this happening in many organizations and it is just another sign that IT is not leading in the organization, but is instead lagging behind and having to play catch up and accommodate when forced to do so.

This, frankly, is the wrong attitude to take. If you haven't figured it out by now—a seamless blend of wired and wireless is the wave of the future. I say seamless, because your workforce will want to go from wired to Wi-Fi to cellular broadband, all within the same workday and all without having to jump through extraordinary hoops to do so. Any attempt at stopping this will make IT look obstructionist and behind the curve.

So what does this mean in terms of your planning? It should mean several things. Here are a few of them to consider:

1. Your organization needs to plan its infrastructure growth around providing secure wireless as part of the overall network, not just as an afterthought.

2. The Internet is part of every knowledge worker's regular tools. They will need to access it all the time, wherever they work from.

3. Expect that there will be a significant number of connections to your corporate network from OUTSIDE your firewall as part of regular business.

4. People will want all their applications delivered to them on a variety of devices.

5. People will expect their applications to perform similarly no matter where they are.

6. You NEED to get control of all mobile devices for your organization. In order to do so, you NEED to build flexibility into your standards. If you are going to demand only one kind of device and won't support the rest—you are asking for trouble.

7. It is ridiculous to supply all workers with a desktop and a variety of mobile devices. Find ways to make their mobile units part of their everyday devices.

8. Video streaming is a part of mobile computing. Stop trying to fight it and work on ways to control it and enhance it within your organization.

9. If VOIP isn't part of your infrastructure, it will be.

10. Integration is your key word.

Having listed things you need to consider in your planning, what are some of your possible solutions?

1. If you do not have a way to deliver your applications as a Web application, you need to develop this capability. I am specifically talking about remote desktop solutions provided by companies such as Citrix, Microsoft or other vendors.

2. If you aren't thinking about heading toward a thin-client environment, you should be. After all, if you are working on ways to provide the same level of seamless application use no matter what the device, why are you paying for all the horsepower of a traditional desktop? Yes there will be exceptions - but it's not the rule.

3. If AJAX isn't in your developer's tool kit, it should be.

4. Your applications will need to be able to support ALL browsers and operating systems as mobile computing devices take a variety of forms.

5. VPN is old school. Create an environment where you can manage connections from a variety of platforms—whether YOU manage them or not.

6. You need to be able to provide and support security from a number of platforms to a wide variety of platforms. This is also a good time to be thinking about single-sign-on capability.

7. Bandwidth management tools are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity.

8. You NEED to get phones and PDAs under your domain now! It should not be a difficult case to make.

9. You need a STRATEGY to move forward in order to handle the complexity that comes with integration—everything I have mentioned here needs to be considered in your strategy.

10. The computing devices of the future are here today; take a look at the Sony VGN-UX280P to see where things are headed.

Obviously there must be a great deal of thought and planning that needs to go into your IT strategy for the future. My point, though, is that if your mobile strategy is separate from your overall strategy, you have a severe disconnect and need to rethink your plan. Mobile and wireless need to be integral to the way you think and plan in all areas—from application development to infrastructure. If they aren't, you will find yourself playing catch up while the rest of your organization does an end run. And when they do - don't forget I told you so.

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