I’m going to try and be better this year about my Tech Thursday posts. So I thought I would start with what continues to be a hot topic in the tech world, Bring Your Own Device.
Today you see and hear commercials from many different companies about working anywhere, and video calls. You can be there without being there, is what many companies are using in their messages. They are showing the ability to be on the road all the time, and talk to your family over video. My question is, why are companies sending the message of putting the family second, why not show customer meetings over video while playing with your kids. To me this is the benefit of a company having a BYOD program and remote access into the workplace. There are multiple case studies and surveys out there showing higher levels of job satisfaction and higher levels of productivity.
BYOD, It’s why we have a 128GB iPads, Ultrabooks, 4G Hotspots, Virtual Desktops, and more laptops than full desktops. But where does support start and stop on these devices? Who owns the data on this device? These are the biggest challenges and struggles that IT Admins are dealing with today. It becomes a situation of security issues, if Employee X has been downloading torrents at home, and then keeps running them at work, not only could hinder the network speed, but it could also release a wealth of worms into the corporate network, infecting hundreds of systems. But what employee really wants the IT staff to load a 2GB security profile onto their personal device that will let the IT team track, lock, and wipe that personal device. Its a matter of managed freedom for lack of a better term.
Businesses are in the tough position of keeping employees happy and productive, while keeping company owned data – within the company. Also the company has to figure out how these devices are going to access the local network, and local files. There are some companies out there planning wireless upgrades and planning for 6-8 devices per person. And if an access point can handle efficiently 40 devices, you can see where this number would just keep increasing, just to get the devices connected to the internet/network. And even if a company says they are not implementing BYOD, I have just one question, How many of us have our work email coming into a personal device? If you are at home, can you access your email from a webpage, then you can have it on your phone/tablet/whatever.
My suggestion to Businesses and IT staff, Don’t just say no, your employees will find their way to the googles and figure out how to do it themselves.
To employees and end users, Don’t be stupid. If you are putting work information on your personal device, to me, you should be on the hook if that information goes missing or gets into the wrong hands.
I wanted to break a little from my recent Tech Thursday posts, and go in a slightly different direction for this post. As we are on the eve of “The New iPad” launch, you kind of have to wonder, is there actually such a thing as too much technology? I’m a geek, so NO. When I think about my typical day, I am on 6 or more different devices throughout the day. I have my iPhone, my work Android phone, my iPad, my work laptop, my home MBP, or my home media server. This doesn’t even take into account all the other devices that are connect in my living room, dvd, Wii, etc.
The geek-heart wrenching thought of what would I do without one of these devices, is like asking an athlete not to wear their lucky socks. It just cannot happen, you feel lost. I’m a technology ho, while I am a huge Apple fan, I will use Windows, or an Android device. I am testing Mountain Lion and Windows 8. But I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have one of my devices available, actually I do, make one of my other devices fill that void. I have my files synced between 3 different systems, plus my iPad and iPhone. I can get to any of my systems from anywhere, I can get the files I need on; Windows XP, 7, 8, OSX Lion, Mountain Lion, iOS, not just get to the files, but work with them, edit them, print them…..
There are so many devices out there today, walking into the Apple Store to me, is like walking into a Utopia. While I know that the system I’m messing around with there is not that different from the one I’m writing this post with, its newer, lighter, bigger….. It’s the constant worry that I don’t have the newest “it,” this device will start my program in 3.1 seconds where my current system takes 3.3 seconds for the same thing, I need it.
We all have our vices, call us Technology Hoarders, if you want, but Geeks/Nerds/Technophiles, we get made fun of until you need us to fix something.
So to answer my title question, To me there cannot be a thing called too much technology, it is how we develop, how we make our daily lives better. That being said technology cannot and should not take the place of real life. Make time for family and friends, with out the technology, and keep it in moderation.
When you think about adding a BYOD program to your organization, you have to think about what devices are going to be coming in, and how they are going to connect. This brings me to my next segment of Tech Thursday… BYOD and Wireless. It is either a match made in IT dreams or nightmares depending on how prepared you are.
One of the first devices that come into the corporate network, before the iPad or other tablet, or before the laptop, is the cell phone, well smart phone, but there are not that many phones out there now that don’t connect to the internet through WiFi.
So for a moment think about the number of people in your company, 95% of them are going to have an Android device, an iOS device, a Blackberry. So this means if 95 of 100 people are now using 2 IP addresses, putting the IP pool at 195, add in the 25 IP addresses reserved for servers, printers, and other devices, you are now at 220 IP addresses used. Now what if half of the staff brings in or receives a tablet, the count is now at 270 devices in a 100 person organization. You are now needing to use multiple DHCP scopes, vlans, subnets, possibly multiple internet connections. Your simple router and two switch network has just morphed into a multi-connection conglomerate of physical and wireless connections.
This additional layer of network complexity, adds another layer of security concerns to go along with the BYOD concerns. Just having wireless, is a security concern depending on your encryption, place in the network, etc. I have been in some places that feel that WEP encryption is good enough for the network. Lets face it, if you have ever used a WEP key, they are long and ridiculous and only in Hex. So we all know what happens in the organization, this is written down on a post-it and passed around and shared, to the point that no one knows who all has the key now. So to prevent this we started using a harder to break WPA/WPA2 Pre-shared key, this too gets passed around and is not always the best to use in an enterprise. A way to help with this is either controlling the wireless with an iron fist, or push the information out with policies to user devices, or go with higher security and RADIUS, login authentication.
Most of the BYOD devices that come into an organization are going to be tablets, these are not going to connect to the traditional wired network. There is no way for them to. Even some newer “ultra-portable/ultrabook” laptops, do not have a built-in ethernet port. If you want to embrace BYOD, you must embrace Wi-Fi with open arms. And the wireless network has to be designed correctly, we no longer have the opportunity to just throw up a couple access point and be OK. Networks are no longer designed to just cover areas, they are designed to facilitate a large number of connects. The only way to know if your coverage is good enough is going to be a series of stress tests and a full wireless survey that will show any interference in the area, that will cause signal issues.
So the first steps of BYOD:
1. The Assessment: What are your needs, how can you do it, can you handle it, will your network handle it?
2. The test: Get some trial users and devices within the company. Get some test devices into their hands and see if they are able to go on business as usual, or if they have some major hinderances to getting their job done.
In today’s IT world, we are surround by all of these buzz words; BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), Cloud, Virtualization, Telepresence, and the list goes on and on. With the push by so many in the workforce now being accustomed to instant-on, instant-gratification, instant-noodles they are looking to use what they want when they want it. I’m not going to lie, my laptop stays on my desk unless I’m going out for a survey or to do some CLI programming. I do all my remote work from my iPad. I have always on connectivity with my mobile hotspot, I have 2 cell phones, and an iPad, I don’t really need to carry around another 6+ pound device. If I could have my multiple displays connected to my iPad, I would use it at my main device. That being said I do have my laptop setup with a few remote access clients so that I can get to if from multiple ways and use it from my iPad, make calls from my iPad, and anything else that I need to do.
This brings us to the true push for virtual desktops and anywhere computing. This technology isn’t new, the interfaces are but not the underlying concept. I want to get to a Windows system that is on the other side of the country from my desk here in KY, what would I have used a few years ago…. RDP, netmeeting, gotomypc, or even VNC. Now we have teamviewer, logmein, and a plethora of other remote access tools that get you right into your system or the system you need in a matter of seconds. This honestly is putting an end to the “corporate standard” for hardware in the workplace. I know people that have worked at other companies that IT has said “here is a stipend buy whatever you want.” In some cases this isn’t even really necessary anymore; for example, including my work laptop, I have 3 laptops and one old tank of a desktop. Most people that use a laptop at work have some sort of computer at home. In surveys and in one that I did myself on linkedin, the most popular thing that people say makes them happier on the job, is the ability to work from home. Give people that opportunity, have accountibilty guidelines, and see the morale and productivity benefits.
With all of today’s technology, we can be in a meeting across the country while sitting on a couch, or even at a Starbucks, and have it seem as though we are right there in the room. I can do router and switch configs in California from my iPhone sitting in line at McDonalds. So why can’t we design true border less networks so that if I leave my desk no one ever really knows it.
The answer is, we can. As IT admins we have a lot to do to get there, but day in and day out we make this a reality.
Keep watching for more updates, I plan to make a multi post guide book on BYOD and wifi networks here in the coming weeks.