There’s no question that more people around the world are connecting to wireless networks at home, work and play via mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This rise in mobile device usage begs the question: How soon will it be (if not already) before these mobile devices dominate the mobile network, especially in the workplace?
Just recently, I read an article in Forbes, by Louis Columbus, that addresses the issue of increased mobile devices and unprepared network infrastructures. The article examines a study by IDC that predicts that 87% of sales for connected devices will be tablets and smartphones in next four years. As many employees prefer working from their own mobile devices, corporate networks, as they’re currently designed, will not be capable of successfully managing such a large volume of mobile data traffic generated by these mobile devices. With such expansive growth expected, the majority of businesses will either need to adapt an existing strategy to support this increase in mobile devices or adopt a new strategy.
Currently, there is a clear need for enterprises to better prepare and invest in their IT infrastructure. As more employees use their own devices at work for business and personal use, it’s imperative that business organizations require a secure mobile device and BYOD strategy to accommodate their business needs and employee preferences. However, the decision to adopt BYOD comes with a set of challenges for IT organizations.
Many of the benefits of BYOD, such as having the choice of device and anywhere, anytime access, are somewhat adverse to traditional IT requirements for security and support. In the past, IT pre-determined a list of approved workplace devices, typically a prescribed desktop, laptop, and perhaps even a small, standardized set of mobile phones and smartphones. Employees could choose among these devices, but generally were not permitted to stray from the approved devices list. With BYOD, IT has to approach the problem differently. Devices are evolving rapidly and it is impractical to pre-approve each and every device brand and form-factor. It is also somewhat impractical to expect IT organizations to have the same level of support for each and every device that employees may bring to the workplace. Therefore, IT organizations will have to establish, at a macro level, what types of devices they will permit on the network, perhaps excluding a category or brand due to unacceptable security readiness or other factors. Support must also be considered, such as adopting more IT-assisted and self or crowd-support models.
Overall, a comprehensive BYOD solution must provide for wired, Wi-Fi, remote, and mobile access to the network. The networks must also be redesigned for data and client density to support the increased use of mobile devices, with more access points installed to allow for higher volumes of mobile traffic. In addition, employee devices often require OS, application and security updates, with cloud sync and backup capabilities that will drive the need for IT leaders to upgrade not only the WLAN but also the wide-area-network (WAN) to support this traffic. Also, as devices move from one context to another such as from the corporate Wi-Fi network to a public 3G/4G mobile network, the BYOD solution must be able to provide secure access while keeping the experience seamless for the user.
Cisco provides a comprehensive mobile architecture, combining elements across the network for a unified approach to secure device access, visibility, and policy control. To solve the challenges described, a BYOD enabled infrastructure is not a single product, but must be integrated into the intelligent network.
Cisco BYOD smart solution builds on the Cisco Borderless Network architecture and assumes best practices are followed in network infrastructure designs for campus, branch offices, Internet edge, and home office implementations.