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How BYOD has changed the IT landscape

Ellen Messmer | Sept. 6, 2012
It may be hard for some to just say ‘no’ to the growing “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) crowd, but that was the initial reaction manager of information at certified public accounting firm Burr, Pilger, Mayer Anthony Peters had when senior executives starting purchasing iPhones, asking them to be supported.

But a number of states, such as Mississippi, as well as many local governments already are in the middle of BYOD initiatives, that are happening because no one has made a good argument why it shouldn't.

The city of Minneapolis, for example, says there is the option for BYOD there in some circumstances. "My iPad is my personal one, but I'm allowed to use the city network," says the CIO Otto Doll. While the idea of BYOD is fairly new, he says it strikes him that it simply represents an evolution of the idea of how home computers came to be used to access corporate data, and when it comes to data security, you have to rely quite a lot on an employee's "sense of professionalism" and training on how data should be treated.

In the city of Wichita Falls, Texas, there are plans being worked out to support BYOD, possibly in the municipal court system for the convenience of attorneys and others, says Patrick Grey, system application analyst for the city. 

And in Mississippi, BYOD is allowed in the prison system under certain circumstances, says Jerry Horton, IT network manager for the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

But not directly around inmates or for inmates. "Inmates is a definite big 'no'," he clarifies about whether BYOD extends to the prison population, noting over 4,000 phones are confiscated every year, brought in by relatives or "thrown over the fence."

Horton says his department does accept requests for BYOD from agency employees, carefully evaluating how BYOD would help them in their jobs. There are no restrictions on mobile-device brands, but the employee does have to sign a form that agrees if they lose their smartphone, for example, it would be wiped. The SonicWall Aventail EX 6000 VPN gateway plays a role in helping define access to agency data resources for any mobile device. Some agency executives, investigators and probation parole officers, for example, have been granted BYOD privileges.

Doctor's order: Get me BYOD, stat!

Large healthcare systems with multiple hospitals and clinic locations are adopting BYOD in order to accommodate physicians with their own tablets who are on the go and want both hospital e-mail and patient data fast.

Eric Devine, chief security officer, information services at Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, Ill., says his healthcare organization today issues corporate-owned Apple and Android-based tablets and smartphones to employees there. But many times physicians prefer to use their own tablets, he points out, because their jobs often take them from hospital to hospital, not necessarily even owned by the same organization.

Devine says his IT group supports BYOD for about 5% of the physicians active in the Riverside system. But BYOD doctors -- who tend to adore Apple tablet, he says -- have to install McAfee or AirWatch mobile-management software, and sign a waiver that would allow IT to wipe the personal device if it's lost. And "jailbreaking iPhones," which would be detected at once, is prohibited, though it happens from time to time as physicians turn to the teenagers in their households for help with that.


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