As BYOD evolves, network monitoring more critical than ever
A decade back, before cell phones became “smart” and armed almost every man, woman and child with a full-fledged, pocket-sized PC, network management teams were able to set and enforce fairly predictable use policies for employee devices. After all, it was (and remains) common for IT to supply computers to employees, while intelligent mobile devices (usually Blackberries, which were hardly ideal vehicles for web surfing) were reserved for the C-Suite, if at all.
But with the dawn of the iPhone, tablets, and a flood mobile apps, it’s not uncommon for workers to leverage two or three devices to get the job done. This heralded the birth of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) initiatives, where employees were encouraged to leverage their own preferred tools to complete work.
At the start, BYOD aimed to give workers more choice (ie. allow a Mac guy to use his MacBook instead of an outdated laptop-PC delivered by IT). But even the nature of BYOD has evolved with the times, as it’s no longer a novel program to keep workers happy but a fact of life for enterprises: As connected devices have become commonplace, the lines between personal and professional time have been blurred.
This has been a double-edged sword for businesses, as it allows office workers to be readily available from almost any location that can deliver network access, any time of the day – a boon for businesses who crave an “always-on” workforce, but a multi-fronted challenge for IT teams tasked with managing network performance. Now, as opposed to just keeping track of devices deployed by IT, network teams need to keep tabs on a major influx of work tools – multiple per user – and apps that could be sapping up network capacity at the expense of business-critical functions.
When “bad apps” infiltrate the network
Perhaps the biggest danger to the enterprise network posed by BYOD is that it raises the risk that non-business apps could have access to network capacity and data in violation of regulations. In that same vein, BYOD could grant third-parties access to sensitive network data that could be valuable to bad actors.
Similar to the conversation around shadow IT, employees will frequently leverage applications for one reason or another without the approval of enterprise IT teams. While this might not always be conducted with ill intent – someone may simply prefer one organizational tool over the one deployed by their department, for instance – it can have unintended consequences.
It’s not uncommon for seemingly innocuous apps (or even browser extensions in the age of SaaS) to contain malware that doesn’t seem threatening on the surface but can cause a widespread infection to devices across the network. More common, however, is the risk that BYOD may open up companies to data leakage risks, including violating policies like SOC 2 and GDPR.
In healthcare, for instance, there are incredibly strict regulations about data use and distribution that have to be enforced to avoid major penalties. Doctors and nurses can’t store patient data on their personal devices, for instance. But if they’re accessing a workflow from their smartphone while on their hospital network, they could put the whole company at risk of noncompliance unintentionally if they save files and unwittingly take them off the WiFi.
- Employees may fail to appropriately secure confidential data outside the confines of the office.
- Employees may accidentally share private data with those who have no right to see it.
- If data isn’t secured properly and a device is lost or stolen, the company must take significant steps to ensure the data isn’t inappropriately accessed.
Beyond data leakage, malware threats and even just the headache of monitoring a litany of devices, IT also has to make sure a flood of non-business applications aren’t sapping up network capacity at the expense of critical tools. If someone is streaming Netflix from their iPhone on their lunch break and it’s interfering with a UCaaS app that’s hosting an important conference call down the hall, IT will need visibility to get to the root of the problem before such conflicts interfere with business.
Despite these risks – and because banning BYOD is an almost impossible policy to enforce in this day and age – enterprise teams need to employ tools that can help them watch out for programs and devices that could be causing damage to the network. While actively tracking specific BYOD devices may cause violations in their own right, network monitoring solutions that can show where network capacity is being spent while identifying the applications and devices in use are invaluable to successfully keeping issues at bay.
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Tags: cloud computing, smartphones, tablets, smartphone, bring your own device, network performance monitoring, network management and monitoring, application management, device management, BYOD, digital transformation