Ennio Carboni 29 August 2014

Paving the way for WYOD

The Internet of Things is not a futuristic concept, it is happening now and promises to empower organisations. Alongside it will come trillions of connected devices, including wearable technology, and this will change the way we work.

WYOD (Wear Your Own Device) comes hot on the heels of (Bring Your Own Device) BYOD, opening up exciting opportunities as well as challenges. Many local authorities seem to be confused about what devices are logging onto their networks and this means that they are unprepared for WYOD.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Ipswitch has revealed that when asked about managing wearable technology – from Google Glass to smart watches – an overwhelming 88% of local authorities admitted to having no plan in place. The request also revealed that despite 88% of local authorities having invested in network management tools, less than a quarter (22%) bother to review network performance regularly during office hours.

Ipswich found that, despite the features offered by these tools, over two-thirds (69%) of local authorities across the UK are unable to differentiate between wired and wireless devices on their network. Although performance was cited as a key priority by 83% of local authorities, 13% admit to never reviewing network performance.

The FOIA request was designed to identify whether local authorities were adopting effective approaches to manage the challenge of increasing traffic on their networks. It looked at whether they were using network management tools effectively to manage challenges and whether they were looking ahead to plan for fresh challenges, such as the security and network bandwidth issues that wearables may bring.

Many cash-strapped local authorities are spending budget on network management tools they don’t require or will never actually use. At the same time they appear unable to collect data on one critical issue – what type of devices and how many are attached to their networks. With the arrival of wearables they will struggle to manage performance degradation and bandwidth.

Local authorities need to get a handle on their networks and ensure they are using the right management tools. In addition, they need to establish a WYOD policy in preparation for the data and security issues that will follow.

Paving the way for WYOD

Local authorities should prepare for the WYOD onslaught now by putting in place a policy. This may involve tweaking a BYOD policy if they already have one. It should include establishing network access points, security, management and monitoring as well as tackling any legal issues such as privacy.

Local authorities should consider the security risks of wearables carefully. Wearable devices have ample storage and robust operating systems that make it easy to steal sensitive data and open up holes for hackers.

Wearables will add to the data going through an organisation’s network. Local authorities’ IT departments need to prioritise how many and what type of devices are allowed access to the network via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, both inside and outside the firewall. Adequate bandwidth is also key. Cloud performance, amongst other things, will suffer without it.

At the same time local authorities need to look carefully at governance, law and best practice and the privacy issues associated with wearables. Employees need to understand the policy, what is expected of them and how the devices can benefit departments. If there is no education and no access to intuitive enterprise approved productivity apps, employees will just look for their own solutions under the radar of the IT department.

Wearables are not just an issue for the IT department. WYOD is an organisational issue and management in local authorities need to take up the reins now. They know wearable technology is coming. If they don’t act fast data chaos and security breaches will provide them with more headaches than they have ever imagined.

Ennio Carboni is executive vice president, customer advocacy at Ipswitch

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