BYOD: No more “being a slave to the cable”

BYOD (bring-your-own-device) is not new for higher education, according to Simon Furber, Data Centre and Network Manager at Brunel University.

While the phenomenon takes the business world by storm, the higher education sector has been dealing with user-owned devices for over a decade and has much to teach the enterprise world about how to effectively manage and secure both devices and user expectations.

Addressing Whitehall Media’s inaugural Enterprise Mobility and Mobile Device Management (EM&MDM) conference at London’s Riverbank Plaza hotel, Furber maintained that “mobility is something most of us expect”.

The choices we make about the devices we use and the way we use them are highly personalised, preferential and emotionally evocative.

In an era of easy-to-use inexpensive and readily accessible technologies, students, faculty and staff expect to bring their own devices, software, applications and cloud-based technologies. With over thirteen thousand students registered at Brunel University, this expectation brings with it a plethora of challenges. Personal computing environments raise concerns about support mechanisms, security and confidentiality, infrastructure, compliance and regulation.

Drawing on the example of his own university, Furber illustrated how the pressure on his department has increased in the last few years. In 2008 just over 4,000 devices were registered on the university network. This number has increased to over 22,000 devices, of which 60 percent are mobile devices. On average, these figures suggest that every user at the university has just over two mobile devices.

University IT departments are pressed to act as service provider, customer support and administrator. Minimum requirements, guidelines and policies around mobile device usage are used to regulate the diverse device landscape as well as provide an appropriate level of control, without restricting user freedom or mobility.

In so far as device trends are concerned, Furber maintained that: “Laptops are now firmly in second place to mobile devices”. He went on to add that the modification of personal behaviour over the course of the last few years invites us to imagine the changes that will occur in the years ahead.

“Your plan for today will have to suffice for much more than that. To me this is the “Star Trek” moment – what is it in the Star Trek moment in the future that we can’t even perceive yet, that what we have to do today is planned for that to arrive.”

Platinum sponsors at the conference included Airwatch, Aruba, BlackBerry and EE.

The next EM&MDM conference will take place at Hotel Russell, London on 19 March 2014. Visit www.whitehallmedia.co.uk/mdm for more details.