What successful BYOD programs can teach us

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After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Tulane University set out to revitalize its IT infrastructure. BYOD and a storage infrastructure overhaul played a key role in getting the university community up and running, faster than ever before. Credit: iStockphoto

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Tulane University set out to revitalize its IT infrastructure. BYOD and a storage infrastructure overhaul played a key role in getting the university community up and running, faster than ever before. Credit: iStockphoto

A winning “Bring Your Own Device” experience doesn’t just happen.  Companies that get BYOD right do so because they put in place the processes, policies, and technologies that let them realize the model’s potential — while avoiding the pitfalls.  They plan, they pilot, they tweak as necessary.  If that sounds intimidating, it doesn’t have to be.  Enterprises just getting started with BYOD — or seeking to improve an existing program — can get a big assist by looking at successful implementations.  Understanding the issues others grappled with, and how they approached them, can help spark success in one’s own BYOD effort.

Tulane’s BYOD path post-Katrina

Consider, for example, the lessons to be learned from Tulane University.  After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the school set out to revitalize its IT infrastructure.  BYOD — with students using laptops, tablets, and smartphones to access assignments, e-textbooks, and other course resources — was to be a cornerstone of its new solution.  Tulane had a plan for facilitating that access, upgrading its network to make it 100 times faster than before.  But it also realized that BYOD isn’t just about fattening the pipes.  It’s also about rethinking every part of the infrastructure: how it is impacted by BYOD, and how it can be improved to handle new demands — without breaking the bank.

For Tulane, this meant taking a close look at its storage infrastructure.  BYOD would mean more devices logging on and more frequent use, and that would mean more data stored and accessed.  To handle this efficiently, Tulane took two critical steps.  First, it reduced the number of storage systems it used by 50 percent, migrating data from four separate storage area networks (SANs) to two.  By leveraging higher-density storage, Tulane would now be able to administer far more storage without adding staff.  Indeed, it could manage 500 terabytes with the same manpower that previously had managed 50 terabytes.

Tulane’s second step was to think about the types of data it stored and map each to the most appropriate — and efficient — type of storage.  Information that was frequently accessed was put on high-performance drives, while data that was less apt to be requested was stored on high-capacity — and highly cost effective — hardware.  The result was an infrastructure that wouldn’t be taxed by the new demands of BYOD, but at the same time, wouldn’t tax the university’s budget.

For more insight into Tulane’s IT infrastructure updates, take a look at this video from Dell World 2012, in which Tulane’s Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Technology Officer, Charlie McMahon, describes the advances the university has made.

BYOD Access and Productivity

Meanwhile, the experience of Tokyo-based Japan Pulp and Paper Company demonstrates the importance of context in BYOD.  For instance, a device requesting access to a corporate network might be at a remote location, or it might be right at the company’s site.  If both the device and the employee it belongs to are on the premises, the security risk is far less than if they were both off-site, since it is unlikely that the device has been stolen or otherwise compromised.  Japan Pulp and Paper leveraged this fact to speed up log-ins — and boost productivity — when conditions warranted.  The company’s wireless LAN environment is designed so that when the mobile device and the employee are both in the office, the device will automatically issue a password and connect with an access point, eliminating the need for users to log in.

Tailor rights to the use case

Then there is the BYOD strategy of Texas A&M International University, which recognizes that different users have different needs and responsibilities, and usage rights should be tailored accordingly.  While the school’s 1,200 employees and 7,200 students have 24/7 access to high-speed wireless Internet, they aren’t all given carte blanche to the same set of resources.

Texas A&M uses a Dell Policy Enforcement Firewall to grant users access to the network based on who they are.  The PEF module lets the school define roles and policies for different users across the campus.  Such customization should be a key consideration for any enterprise moving to BYOD.  Users should be permitted access to the resources they need, while restricted from those they don’t.  By using profiles — sets of rules that spell out what data and applications a BYOD user and their device can access — security can be enhanced, without hindering productivity.

A well thought out strategy is essential to success with BYOD.  Learning by example — taking a cue from the companies that have gotten this new model right — can not only prove informative, but invaluable.  BYOD is growing and evolving, and as businesses hit on sound solutions, it’s not a bad idea to pay close attention.

Alan Cohen
Alan Cohen is a New York-based writer who covers technology and business.
Alan Cohen
Tags: BYOD,Storage,Technology