The BYOD Conundrum

Duane Schau, Director of for client services, Indiana University
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We can now reasonably conclude that the new “bring your own device” (BYOD) era began with the smartphone, triggering the “post-PC era”. In recent memory, standard issue technology included a personal computer or Windows laptop and a Blackberry phone. Today employees and students carry three or more devices as they connect to institutional resources for work-related activities. In fact, Intel reports our workers are increasingly asking for the ability to work any time from any location, using their personally owned notebooks, smartphones, and tablets to access institutional apps and data.

As IT leaders, it is easy to focus on institutional strategy that involves budgets, personnel, compliance, and policy. Operational issues like how we provision and secure personal devices can often be overlooked. Our IT shops do an excellent job of securing institutionally owned devices under their control, but securing apps and data on these devices is getting more complicated and expensive. This is amplified when we endeavor to provision apps and data around BYOD. It requires rethinking how to make institutional mobility secure and affordable.

Platform Management Tools

Client Management Tools, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, and Enterprise Mobility Management are three commonly used platforms for delivering solutions to our mobile workforce.

Client Management Tools (CMT) such as Casper for Mac and System Center for Windows are designed for delivering apps and data to corporate-owned Windows and Mac workstations and notebooks. IT staff can encrypt local storage, reduce administrative access, and enable passwords. Unfortunately, CMT solutions do not work as well on personally owned desktops and notebooks that enable BYOD mobility.

  ‚ÄčA good experience requires a significant amount of finesse on the front end, so workflows and task switching run smoothly 

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solves some of the challenges around delivering apps and data on personally owned devices. Vendors like Citrix have mitigated some mobile shortcomings with mouse integrations for PC-like experiences on the iPad. The VDI user experience is especially good for notebooks connected to a network. VDI with tablets can be less than optimal because users often do not have the desired screen size or native app experience. Citrix StoreFront delivers an HTML5 client that shows promise–its hybrid approach means tablets or smartphones use native apps when mobile and VDI when back at the office.

Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) addresses the issue of delivering native apps along with institutional data on a managed iOS or Android mobile device. (EMM solutions designed for iOS and Android are not suitable for provisioning apps or data on Windows or MAC laptops.) User expectations are higher for mobile devices and span built-in feature integrations such as text messaging, location-based services, camera, and voice. Mobile workers expect their native apps to access GPS data, along with integrated text and email communications, along with their institutional data. A good experience requires a significant amount of finesse on the front end, so workflows and task switching run smoothly.

All three solutions deliver components of mobility and options for BYOD. But servicing an entire fleet of managed and unmanaged devices requires all three along with the requisite licensing, back end hardware, and engineers. This, in turn, calls for a different approach to resource management.

Shared Services Approach

At Indiana University, we chose to develop a shared services approach to deliver our trio of CMT, VDI, and EMM solutions. We began by building a multi-tenant framework for IT departments located in schools, departments, or campuses.

At the four year mark:

• Our CMT solutions (System Center and JAMF Casper) deliver over 25,000 endpoints to 50 departments.
• Our VDI deployment (Citrix) is actively used by over 72,000 students, faculty, and staff.
• Our newest EMM solution (AirWatch) is actively deployed to 1,000 endpoints with uses as diverse as facilities management and athletics play books on iPads.

The shared services approach not only reduces technology redundancy, but also lessens the need to fund and operate separate CMT, VDI, and EMM solutions. By consolidating resources, IT pros lower costs and build a shared architecture for meeting compliance and auditing requirements. This creates more opportunities to realign departmental IT dollars to better serve the university’s core missions.

Unfortunately, our CMT, VDI, and EMM platform tools tend to work in three primary technology stacks. While having common standards and practices creates efficiencies, the shared services approach is still burdened with enterprise license agreements, additional client licenses, and an array of personnel and hardware that strains the budgets of all our IT shops.

There are several friction points in delivering a successful BYOD campaign. It can often take many months or years to adapt VDI technology to institutional needs, and delivering a quality user experience requires skilled and seasoned staff. Furthermore, users are often reluctant to see their personal devices locked down when using EMM solutions. And people have come to expect seamless feature integration.

That said, now is the time for IT leadership to question whether current device management strategies are still relevant. In higher education, we are striving to enable access anytime, anywhere, on any device. Our current focus: Working with our vendor partners to help reduce complexity and costs when delivering, managing, and securing apps and data. Can you help?

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