BYOD and the Cloud

The push-pull battle between consumer technology and corporate IT infrastructure continues to gain press attention.  Anecdotal evidence indicates that the momentum in IT departments is shifting away from rejection and lockdowns to one of acceptance and cooperation, albeit with security and data integrity concerns still looming overhead.  One gets the impression that the compliance with the users’ desires is increasing, but all it might take is a major incident to swing the pendulum the other way.

SMARTPHONE OutlineI had the pleasure of attending the NaviCloud Expo event this week, sponsored by NaviSite.   The focus was on cloud adoption and all the various justification, deployment, and integration issues.   “Bring your own device (BYOD) was an integral part of the discussion throughout the day, as many tie-ins and parallels exist, of course, between cloud adoption and the BYOD trend:

-          Consumer technology trends driving corporate trends,

-          The ubiquity of the web and tech savvy users,

-          “Always on” connectivity enabling solutions to flourish, where just a few years ago these would have been non-starters.

The similarities and tie-ins between BYOD and cloud solutions also include the potential downsides:

-          Volume concerns, with the “up and to the right” growth trends meaning tens of billions of end points to worry about in the coming years,

-          Looming security concerns,

-          Looming privacy concerns,

-          Looming data integrity concerns.

A Few Stats To Consider

As noted by the keynote speaker, Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research, around 60% of cloud services/applications decisions are made by line-of-business owners rather than IT folks.  Additionally, he noted that the end users who are bringing those devices into the enterprise – they are also responsible for identifying over 75% of the network problems instead of the IT folks.   So along with the impact brought on by the devices and technology, the business users themselves carry a heavy weight on their shoulders when it comes to both decision making and longer-term quality improvements for the services selected.

One of the other observations that Mr. Kerravala noted from his research was the counter-intuitive trend toward internal usage of the cloud as opposed to the stereotypical “road warrior” use case.  First-blush logic might say that mobile, remote, road warriors would be natural targets and beneficiaries for cloud applications.  However, connectivity and speed still can be an issue when it comes to hotels, airplanes, hot spots, and cellular linkups.  Traditional, internal enterprise cloud users outnumber the remote cloud users when the accounting is done.  Part of that discussion likely falls under the topic of:  who/what constitutes a remote worker these days?  Look at your own situation.  Most professionals are connected 24/7 between their smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc., so road warriors can be considered satellite office workers with less consistent connectivity while staying at various hotels, traveling on airplanes, or away from hot spots.

The benefits of cloud solutions are obvious and a well-covered topic, as are the benefits of consumer-oriented technologies and devices such as netbooks, smartphones, tablets and the like.  We still have the cloud versus SaaS debate to tackle w.r.t. “where is the data and who owns/controls it.”  But with LaaS providers more abundantly available, solving the data replication and availability problems that an IT dept. would have to address with selecting the right COLO partner and such, this is also becoming a non-issue.   In like manner, some lines of demarcation are required in a BYOD scenario with respect to data resident on end-user devices, and determining where the master copy or repository is at any given point in time.  Neither is an insurmountable problem, but both require up-front rules of engagement.

As I researched the BYOD trends, I noted this set of results from Aternity.  Finance and healthcare are leading the charge in BYOD and mobile applications with over 90% and 85% of those respective organizations supporting the use of personal mobile devices at work.   I would guess that a fair number, if not a majority, of those mobile uses will be office employees rather than travelers hitting the road on a daily basis.

So, Now What?

The bottom line for CIO’s and IT departments is similar to that noted in an earlier blog:

  • Assume these “risky” activities will exist in your organization, and plan accordingly.
  • Educate the users in an informative way as to some ground rules that will benefit all involved parties.
  • Integrate, rather than isolate, these consumer technologies, tools, and user practices into your strategic plans and tactical processes and procedures.

I have noted a resurgence of the “Where’s the flying car that I was promised!” headlines and articles in the last week. (It’s been awhile since that one went around, so I’m sure some copy editor dusted it off and it went viral again.)  I’m not sure this qualifies in terms of the same order-of-magnitude, game-changing impact that flying cars might have – but nonetheless, it should be intriguing to see how the cloud and BYOD will change the way we do business in the next year or two.

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