The explosive popularity of consumer devices has shown no sign of slowing. In 2013, smart phones are expected to be used as the leading device for consumers to connect to the internet. By 2015, tablet PC connectivity is expected to outpace laptops. It is no surprise that these devices are increasingly being brought into the workplace and used to perform both business critical functions as well as private user tasks. In fact, the average corporate user has anywhere from 2-4 mobile devices, most of which require wireless connectivity, and this number continues its steady rise. Along with redesigning and upgrading the wireless infrastructure to support these devices, some business organizations have started rolling out applications for employee use and custom app stores.
Along with this steady upward trend in the physical number of BYOD devices, users are also expecting the performance of mobile applications to keep pace with their wired counterparts. They want to use any device to access any application, anywhere, without lag or delay in user experience. In one survey, more than half of IT organizations responded that they receive increasing complaints from BYOD users who expect to connect anywhere in the building with no degradation in performance. In addition to being pressed to engineer wireless environments that will provide bandwidth at higher rates than ever before, companies preparing to support a bring your own device (BYOD) initiative have needed to create security policies to regulate the usage, applications, and connectivity allowed to these BYOD devices.
The massive trend toward BYOD in the enterprise is bringing with it several impacts to IT. It used to be that IT had complete control over the devices used connected to the network, due to the fact that they were purchased, configured, and provided by the business. Now, with the BYOD trend movement, the BYOD users decide which devices they want to buy, how they are configured, what is installed on them, and to what extent they will be used for business critical tasks. In the past, wireless users only required email and Internet access to mobile devices, which has a relatively low bandwidth requirement. With BYOD, voice, video, unified communications, and bandwidth hungry applications are being driven over the wireless infrastructure, which is likely unprepared for this unprecedented load. This BYOD trend will bring user dissatisfaction, support issues, IP addressing problems, and capacity limitations for competing devices.
BYOD will put a spotlight on wireless problems that may have been masked up to this point. This is due to the fact that coverage and capacity will be required for up to three times as many devices. We can expect an increase of trouble calls into IT, but, the support team may or may not have the tools, knowledge, and budget available to properly address the situation. The BYOD trend will also bring a security concern like never before, as these devices are open to a host of threats and attacks which may not be detected by present security systems.
Benefits of BYOD
BYOD can be a very good thing and provide benefits for the business, saving IT budgets by offloading some of the operations cost to the users. Supporting BYOD is required in some verticals, as hospitals, schools, and some manufacturing companies continue to require the mobility and usage offered by these devices. The BYOD trend shows no sign of slowing, so doing nothing – hoping it goes away – will not prepare IT organizations for the problems of tomorrow. In fact, ignoring BYOD will only cause IT to spend more and more time and money chasing problems that they didn't anticipate, or worse, recovering from major security intrusions. If IT keeps on top of the performance concerns brought on by BYOD, they will offset calls coming into the help desk, and save time in troubleshooting BYOD user complaints. Most importantly, with the right tools, engineers can monitor and mitigate security threats, which will protect critical business data and infrastructure from being compromised.
In considering a BYOD initiative, IT organizations need to look at what it brings in terms of challenges. We can break these down into two main categories: performance and security.
On the performance side, IT needs to investigate how a BYOD device will impact presently installed business-critical devices. What and how much traffic will be introduced? How many devices will the present infrastructure support? What quality of bandwidth can be provided and where? If a site assessment is performed, consider that BYOD devices have lower-powered radios than their laptop counterparts. This will create a situation where a laptop driven tool or application does not suffer the same degraded performance that a BYOD device does, making it hard to verify and resolve user complaints. When planning access point (AP) deployments to support BYOD, a site survey should take into account elevator shafts, wall materials, trees around the building, and unexpected RF interferers such as microwaves and printers
With the impacts to security, IT organizations need to consider having a BYOD policy that governs the use of these devices. The BYOD policy needs to include an acceptable device list, accepted operating systems, accepted applications, and define access limitations. Once the BYOD policy is in place and communicated to users, there must be a way of monitoring and enforcing it. Users need to be educated on the importance of following the policy, and the impacts of not doing so. If an attack is launched from a BYOD device, IT needs to be alerted and the problem device located.
BYOD Best Practices
In the BYOD planning phase, the network should be designed with both laptops and BYODs in mind, remembering that signal quality is just as important to measure as signal strength. The BYOD user experience needs to be tested and analyzed from the perspective of a device with a low-powered radio. Before deploying additional wireless infrastructure to support additional devices, be sure to test where these are needed and how they should be configured. Too many access points can be just as destructive to performance as not having enough access points. In the BYOD planning and deployment stage, there is a critical need for an analysis tool which can pinpoint dead spots and interference sources, while actively testing for bandwidth and performance indicators. This way, IT can be as prepared as possible to support these devices as they increasingly connect to the wireless infrastructure.
Once BYOD devices have come onboard, there needs to be a way to identify and monitor their presence and usage from the air. A full-scale "eyes in the sky" wireless monitoring tool can keep tabs on these devices, watching for security threats and intrusions, while alerting IT to performance problems and directing their resolution. This will also assist in the enforcement of the BYOD security policy, which needs to include clear limitations for all employees who want to use their personal devices for access. In most environments, a separate "guest" network is used for the majority of employees who only require Internet access with these devices. Additionally, BYOD devices should be secured with a PIN or password and make use of a remote data-wiping service in the event the phone or tablet is lost. Employees need to be trained on the importance of adhering to the BYOD policy and the havoc that can be caused by a security breach.
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BYOD Whitepapers and Downloads
NETSCOUT provides many resources to help our customers solve (BYOD) challenges. Some require a simple registration. See a complete listing of application notes for other topics.
|BYOD Without Tears (New)|
Analyst firm Forrester predicts that there will soon be an average 3.2 BYODs per user in the enterprise. It is clear that it is a trend that cannot be ignored nor halted. BYOD is here to stay whether we like it or not. However, steps must be taken, and taken now, to ensure companies are ready for BYOD. This white paper looks at the challenges of integrating BYOD with corporate networks in a way that BYOD does not compromise connectivity or performance for established wired and wireless users.
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