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BYOD management: Using a device catalog to control users

Having a BYOD policy doesn't mean allowing every device onto the network. A BYOD catalog sets rules for which devices and applications are feasible.

Editor's Note: Keith Townsend, author of the Virtualized Geek blog and chief enterprise architect at Lockheed Martin,...

is a new addition to the Fast Packet lineup. In this post, he warns that BYOD management means educating users and developing a BYOD catalog that outlines which devices and applications they're allowed to use.

The challenges with bring your own device, or BYOD management haven't changed much in the more than 15 years that I've been involved with network computing. The only thing that has changed is the number of users able and wishing to connect their own devices to the corporate network.

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Previously, only executives could afford to purchase mobile devices that were capable of connecting to the network. In my earlier days, I had a group of executives who caught the Compaq Libretto bug. The Libretto was a 7-inch laptop that required a 4-year-old's finger to use the keyboard. My then-CIO brought one into a meeting with some other execs and used it to dial up to the corporate network and check his cc:Mail (I'm dating myself). The trend caught on throughout the executive suite, and before I knew it, I had my chief technology officer coming to my cube asking to install Windows NT on his newly purchased machine.

These days, however, devices are commodities. More than 50% of U.S. mobile users have smartphones, and I bet that in a corporate environment the penetration is even higher. If your office is anything like mine, the majority of those users want to connect their devices to the network, and they want to do more than check their mail.

I've long accepted that end users want a choice in computing devices beyond the not-so-sleek BlackBerry 8700. In order to attract and retain the best talent, we, the stodgy IT old guard, will need to accommodate a workforce that achieves higher productivity based on their ability to work outside the office, even at their own expense.

But allowing BYOD doesn't mean that end users should bring any device of their choice and be given unmitigated access to the network. It's one thing to allow an iPhone to connect via ActiveSync and receive mail and calendaring information; it's a completely different scenario to allow that same phone Wi-Fi access onto the corporate network. IT managers must educate end users on the dangers of bringing just any device into the network.

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The reasoning behind limiting BYOD goes further than compromised security. End users want devices that get great support and perform well. But how many devices and applications, spread across how many manufacturers and service providers, can your organization reasonably support with good performance?

The answer could be to establish a support BYOD catalog, which would give your user community a choice of devices and approved applications. This gives your end users the ability to choose their device within the scope of supported configurations. That in turn results in a consistent end-user experience.

Which devices you include in your BYOD catalog will depend on your security requirements. A good start would be to look at your mobile device management (MDM) platform's requirements. MDM providers should include a list of the devices and carriers they support. The fact that the iPhone made the cut for my MDM provider a couple of years ago helped make it a great success.

What challenges have you faced in implementing restrictions on your BYOD services? I'd love to hear.

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