Consumerisation: don’t fight it, manage it

By Garry Sidaway
23 May 2011 View Comments
Intergralis' Garry Sidaway

Love it or loathe it, you can’t ignore Apple’s iPad 2. Tablet computing has arrived in a big way, and with the explosion in smartphone sales, consumers have more power than ever at their fingertips.

IT departments across the land must now face up to the fact that the wall existing between the workplace and the consumer world is breached. To try to hold back the consumerisation of the nation’s workplaces would serve only as a modern take on King Canute ordering back the tide.

Further reading

Indeed, research from Mformation Technologies found it to be a boardroom issue, with more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of the 300 CIOs interviewed admitting that employee-owned devices entering the network were creating security headaches.

Fundamental to security is network and data access control. Endpoint security software protects the user device against viruses and other malware. Data encryption can also be used to protect data stored on the device, while network access control (NAC) can be used to test the security status of the endpoint security software.

Traditional security technology such as firewalls cannot adequately control the new breed of web-based applications, so web 2.0 security software should be used. It is no longer sufficient to simply allow or deny Facebook or Twitter. If access is denied users will find a way around it, but allowing them introduces risk, so granular control is a must.

As data access becomes ubiquitous, it is important it is protected in transit. SSL VPN technology can provide control over which applications are available to remote users. If integrated with NAC technology it can enforce different policies for corporate and personal devices. Data leak prevention technology will enable control over which data can be downloaded to mobile devices.

While all the above technologies are appropriate for Windows-based devices, not all will be supported on every smartphone or tablet PC. Building a secure solution from existing technologies within this environment is difficult, and a more elegant solution using virtualisation techniques may be appropriate. This technology effectively partitions the device into separate virtual devices for work and personal use, controlling access to the corporate workspace.

While it is understandable to be wary of the consumerisation of IT, it is better to be bold and make it work for you. After all, there are significant productivity benefits to always-connected employees.

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