The age of IT consumerisation is well and truly upon us. Defined as the blurring of lines between corporate IT and consumer technology, IT consumerisation has witnessed a growing number of firms allowing staff to use their own personal devices for work purposes, with employee-owned laptops, smartphones and tablets now common place in most offices. In fact, recent statistics suggest that 90 per cent of firms are likely to offer support for corporate applications on personal devices, thus the influx of consumer technology into the work environment shows no signs of abating.
The overarching benefit to the organisation is clear: with staff using their own devices for business purposes, the company saves on the cost of acquiring and maintaining the device. Equally, any move towards consumerisation is bound to please the employee base, who will benefit from device familiarity and increased flexibility.
But bringing your own technology to work is not as simple as flicking a switch and instantly enabling everybody’s tablets, smartphones and netbooks on the corporate IT infrastructure. Indeed, it’s an issue that a number of Aspectus’s clients have been talking about. DeviceLock for example, has highlighted the security issues that arise when an organisation loses control of the endpoints it is allowing to connect to its network. After all, if an organisation does not own the endpoint device, it has no way of knowing where and how information is being accessed and distributed.
What’s more, with a workforce mobilised and armed with sensitive company data, the non-technical side of security must be considered; theft and accidental loss for example, are becoming increasingly common and must be taken into account within a corporate IT security strategy. A survey by Credent Technology found that 5,000 USB pen drives are put through washing machines in local drycleaners, and 10,000 handheld electronic devices are left in the back of taxis every year.
Another Aspectus client, Centralis, advocates virtualisation as a way for IT departments to regain some of the control being ceded to personal devices. Virtualisation can ensure that corporate applications, documents and files can be accessed by personal devices but – crucially – kept at ‘arm’s length’ behind the firewall provided by corporate servers.
There is no doubt that consumerisation of IT delivers major advantages. But it also presents new and significant risks to sensitive corporate data and brand, as well as placing increased demand on IT infrastructure. The role of IT within the corporate environment continues to change dramatically, but firms must move swiftly and decisively if they are to reap the benefits that IT consumerisation can deliver whilst effectively managing and negating the associated risks.