By Alessandro Porro, Vice President, EMEA/APAC/LATAM, Ipswitch Inc.
Wireless devices can have a significant impact on today’s IT organisations, especially those that have skimped on planning around BYOD implementation. The resulting chaos can be a costly drain on IT staff and infrastructure resources.
When developing a strategy or rethinking an existing implementation, IT managers need to consider:
Total cost: Many organisations look at BYOD as a cost-saving alternative to buying PCs and notebooks for their users, only to realise that the cost of supporting these devices soon exceeds the expected savings.
Security: Policies and procedures need to be implemented to ensure that BYODs are properly secured to protect critical IT assets and sensitive data.
Network availability and performance: Most BYODs access the wireless network. Notebooks, iPads and smart phones all increase density and bandwidth consumption on wireless networks.
So now let us discuss best practices for introducing and supporting BYODs while maintaining optimal availability and performance.
First, you need to establish a wireless management benchmark. Before overhauling the entire office network, it’s best to start by creating a benchmark of exactly who is bringing what devices onto the network, how many devices each user plans to use, and what the users of these devices are accessing. Gaining an understanding of the impact BYODs have on wireless bandwidth will uncover the network design changes needed to accommodate more devices – a number that will continue to increase.
There are three questions to consider when creating this benchmark:
What are the most common applications and websites that employees are accessing via wireless devices? Are they primarily for business or personal use?
Who or what are the top consumers of wireless bandwidth in terms of individuals, devices and applications?
How are BYODs moving through the corporate wireless network, and how does this impact access point availability and performance?
This initial benchmark will uncover clear gaps that a wireless policy must address, convey the magnitude of the BYOD effect on IT performance, and serve as a measuring stick for future improvements.
The next step is to develop data-driven BYOD policies. With more pervasive use of wireless devices, it is not uncommon for a single user to be armed with a notebook, tablet and smart phone. Will the wireless network be able to handle this increased density and traffic?
An accurate benchmark of wireless usage and behaviour allows the organisation to establish BYOD usage policies that enable IT to support users with multiple devices, while maintaining acceptable wireless availability and performance. An effective BYOD policy should address the following:
Who: BYOD usage should be limited to those who need extra devices to do their jobs.
Devices: It’s common for users to carry three or four devices into the workplace, significantly increasing density on the wireless network. BYOD policies should define the acceptable number and type of devices by job function.
Bandwidth: With an increased number of devices, IT will be challenged to keep up with the wireless bandwidth demand. BYOD policies need to define authorised applications and acceptable bandwidth consumption by user and device.
It is likely time to rethink the network design. Odds are that an organisation’s network design, infrastructure and IT policy are not keeping pace with employees’ growing reliance on wireless technology.
When companies first rolled out wireless networks, these were meant only for convenience – for users who required network connectivity as they moved throughout the building. Fast forward several years and wireless networks are becoming the primary user network.
According to Gartner, as wireless networks migrate from networks of convenience to primary user networks, 80 per cent of network designs will be obsolete by 2015.
So consider the last meeting you attended, and multiply the number of people in the room by three. That’s how many devices will likely use an access point designed originally for one-third or less of that traffic. The resulting over-subscribed access point impacts everyone, including employees outside the meeting room trying to work via wireless but can’t connect to the server. In addition, bandwidth can be diverted from business-critical applications and corporate email.
IT performance, availability and employee productivity take the hit. The bottom line is that employees’ mobile behaviour will continue to evolve, but it’s never too late to evaluate or create new wireless policies.