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October 18, 2012

BYOD Challenges Are Growth Engine for Future

By Dave Courbanou

Most CIOs likely view consumerization of IT with a sense of trepidation. Tablets beget security issues, smartphones beget data loss and most user devices are completely different from one another — it could be a nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be.

A recent GigaOM article covered the attitudes on BYOD by C-level executives who were involved in a panel discussion at GigaOM’s Structure Europe event. The prevailing sentiment: Find the business purpose in the latest and greatest devices and exploit it in the best way possible.

But how can you exploit the business capabilities of disparate devices running multiple operating systems? It’s simple. Find the simplest solution, which is the common denominator across all devices.

If that sounds like a call to the cloud, that’s because it is. Moving to the cloud simultaneously allows mobile devices and desktops to use the same applications with the same information. It puts everybody on the same page, which is a good thing.

C-level panelists noted that virtual machines can also facilitate this process, although if cost is an issue, CIOs could do away with all unnecessary extras and implement a well-connected remote access program through existing desktop computers.

Relatively inexpensive remote access applications can be had on nearly any device, allowing employees to access the most commonly needed apps, documents and e-mail without requiring that local information reside on the device. CIOs could add another layer of security with mobile device management tools, and the transition would essentially be complete. The same is true for virtualization — if not more so. Many major companies offer official virtualization access applications that are a direct complement to the virtualization platform being used.

In some ways, this transition may seem traumatic, but it’s critically important because it sets the foundation for many more good things. Consider the implications of employee productivity alone if they are happily using the devices that best suit them. In addition, the enhanced collaboration capabilities which mobility brings can revitalize the way every day meetings are conducted or the depth at which a board room presentation can be given.

If a CIO takes this trend seriously and evaluates the necessary steps to move a company into the BYOD era, when all is said and done, it will be more than a transition, it’s a transformation. A CIO hasn’t just tacked the challenges of BYOD, he or she has solved the business problems of tomorrow with today’s technology. And that sets up a on-ramp for more growth in the future, whether it’s more cloud services or a data center upgrade for virtualization servers.

However, GigaOM’s panelist made one thing very clear: CIOs should not try and fight the tide of tablets and smartphones. Users that are savvy enough to leverage these devices inside (or outside) the confines of existing IT will likely be smart enough to find additional ways to utilize their device with company data. This should be avoided at all costs, particularly if keeping company information safe and private is a top priority for a CIO or his colleagues.

Although the saying is clichéd, it still holds truth: It’s time to adapt or die.

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