The popularity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) within business IT is gathering apace.
Allowing staff to connect their own devices to the company network has always been unpopular with IT departments and is fraught with difficulties and potential security implications.
However, implications that may be clear to technical personnel are not always so well defined to senior management, who may view BYOD as a way to save money or to make their company seem more modern and vibrant. With this is mind, wise MSPs can do well by seeing BYOD as an opportunity rather than a potential problem.
When BYOD becomes part of a client’s agenda, either as a clear policy or as a gradually creeping cultural change, MSPs need to be assertive in explaining the implications and risks to their clients.
Allowing personal devices on the infrastructure in an uncontrolled way introduces risks that sensible businesses, however small, will want to avoid. It should take little more than an explanation of how easily valuable data could leave site and a description of the potential knock-on effects, to convince a client that if BYOD is to be allowed, it must be supported and controlled via a detailed strategy.
Creating this BYOD strategy is the first business opportunity for the MSP.
Controlling BYOD effectively is likely to require some system changes. For example, some businesses may wish to segment the network or create a DMZ and only allow personal devices to access the public Internet. Larger businesses may choose to create a thin-client environment, which can allow staff to carry out work on their own devices without, at any point, downloading any company information.
A BYOD strategy needs to consider every interaction that a personal device can have with the corporate
infrastructure. For example, say a company chooses to allow staff to connect a personal iPhone to the Exchange server. Will the IT department enforce a password policy on the device? Will IT require it to be controlled by a central management solution that allows the device to be wiped if lost or stolen?
Once the MSP has assisted clients in creating the strategy and setting the appropriate boundaries (hopefully earning some consultancy fees along the way), it is important to establish support parameters. For example, does the MSP become responsible for supporting this plethora of new kit that arrives in the office?
Every situation is different but, as before, assertiveness is required to ensure that an unfair burden isn’t placed on the MSP in terms of support. Although device-based pricing models are less popular nowadays, bringing back this model may be the only way to charge a client fairly when it allows a high level of personal devices.
The key focus should be on effective communication between the MSP and the client. MSPs shouldn’t be afraid of asking for fair reward if a client’s wishes with regards to BYOD make the network harder to support.
By taking this approach, the MSP should either increase revenue or cause the client to place sensible limits on their BYOD intentions – neither of these are bad outcomes.
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