Bring Your Own Device – flight, ignore or embrace?
The concept of staff, students and employees being able to use their own devices in school or in the work place, for some, is still the dark side of technology. So what do you do? Take flight and maybe address the issue at a later date? Ignore it altogether because that’s the easiest option or do you embrace it? It is vital to get involved. If ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) isn’t fully embraced it is almost certain that problems will occur sooner rather than later. If you choose to fly or ignore ultimately the ones that will suffer are teachers, learners or business.
The on-line world and new technology brings new potential and opportunities to students, employers and employees. The power of constant connectivity has been discovered and access to individual network is expected regardless of location. Rapid technology advancement and acquisition has changed the way we learn, work and communicate. The rate of change is unlikely to slow down any time soon, and schools and businesses should look towards the future to gain insight into the challenges and opportunities.
Being able to BOYD into school or into the workplace is on the increase to meet diverse computing needs and has resulted in a broad spectrum of devices being used, such as Smart Phones, Tablets, Notebooks and personal computers etc. The unprecedented growth of consumerisation where new Information Technology (IT) emerges into the consumer market before extending into business and Government organisations is the principle driver of IT innovation. Schools and businesses are able to capitalise and reap the financial benefits of this growth as maintenance and running cost shift to the student or employee.
These developments raise plausible concerns about IT infrastructure, planning and governance, security and compliance, support strategies, teaching and learning and financial implications (John P Kotter – Educause Jan ‘13). Potentially BYOD can bring substantial benefits: operating BYOD alongside school-owned / corporate devices can offer the best of both worlds, i.e. both wired and wireless connectivity. Segmenting the network in this way means that mobile and handheld device users outside of the IT management and control (wired connectivity) lose the ability to access sensitive network resources, but they can continue to access the Internet with wireless connectivity with smartphones and tablets.
The benefits of endorsing BYOD may equally present security risks and implementation challenges. The high availability and use of personal devices and mobile complexity is driving the need for a robust and secure mobile infrastructure. Different devices have different capabilities and responses. It is understandable that both school leaders and employers may be hesitant of allowing staff and pupils to BYOD. They will undoubtedly be concerned about threats to network security, performance, reliability and data and access to the corporate / school network from their mobile devices. Scott Dobson (Meraki – March ’13) describes network challenges as: ‘supporting multiple devices, stop the network slowing down when using multiple applications, users’ security with BYOD, new devices, higher bandwidth and access everywhere (including access to Google and social networking sites such as YouTube)’.
Schools and businesses should ensure that the right measures are in place to maximise success and to mitigate possible risk. It is fundamental that a schools or businesses infrastructure is sufficient to minimise any issues around capacity and capability to cope with multiple devices all wanting to access the Internet at the same time. Ineffectual traffic shaping can result in decreased user productivity and satisfaction, as well as an increase in costs due to misused network resources. In addition extra costs may be incurred in Bandwidth upgrades purchased in an effort to improve the performance of slow applications or to increase productivity
Staff training and sound policies for what is and what isn’t allowed are imperative so that personal and sensitive data are kept separate. The demand for anytime, anywhere access to key applications such as email from mobile devices is driving the need for more widespread adoption of Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) and the need for network application services, i.e. get a handle on what applications your users are using and then prioritising / restricting what they can and cannot use. For example, mail and calendars are core applications. Facebook, Twitter etc. may not be so it would be wise to restrict users to viewing these over lunch times. ‘The need to prioritise critical educational applications is more important than ever as students view, share, tweet and game with network resources. It also gives peace of mind that students / employees are not accessing inappropriate or illegal content ‘(Exinda Aug ‘12).
A cloud-managed networking infrastructure, sound platform, secure access points, centrally managed security and application control are the best way forward to combat security issues and warrant optimum performance ensuring it has the capability to deal with whatever volume of traffic / business is required with greater mobility and agility. A WLAN is significantly easier to deploy, manage and more affordable than traditional hardware controller-based solutions. A Cloud managed network service provides an on-line back-up service which allows storage of critical data on secure servers at a location away from school or business premises. In the event of a disaster vital lost data can be recovered through a simple interface or transference of data onto a different server.
In terms of maximising network and data security this can be done with an Unified Threat Management (UTM) system that integrates a firewall, Virtual Private Network (VPN), intrusion prevent, application control, web filtering, anti-virus and granular user controls (J Maddison, Fortinet – Wall Street Journal ’13). Fully integrated built-in support provides a secure, reliable and trusted BYOD network without the need for extra appliances, licences or complex configurations. Fully integrated support also gives appropriate protection and confidence of safe-guarding staff and students, where you can have customised monitoring and reporting applications, without installing additional software or hardware including mobile device management (MDM) with remote wiping function and data destruction. This refers to students / employees when leaving an establishment for example their mobile devices can be swiped.
The advantages of BYOD far outweigh the disadvantages for the student, the teacher, the employee and the employer. The result of getting BYOD right could see the biggest change in educational and business opportunities.
Education Adviser & Consultant