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BYOD: Bring Your Own Disaster

In keeping with the tradition of the last three to five years, 2012 is being touted by analysts and vendors alike as "the year for VDI." This year there is a slightly new twist to the hype and marketing, and that's Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). It's a simple concept: Employees own devices that they like to use and are most productive on; IT should support the apps and services used to run the business on the employees' devices.

It’s not a wholly new concept; many companies have used this model in some fashion for years. For example, Cisco has allowed employees to purchase and use their own Apple notebooks for their daily tasks for some time. The caveat in this case was that it was a self-support model. Employees had to service their own devices and ensure they could perform daily tasks without IT assistance. A culture anchored on an extensive wiki of users supporting each other grew at Cisco and the model thrived. It gave employees choice, without overburdening IT with support, application rewrites, and so on.

The new concept of BYOD extends far beyond that to phones, tablets, laptops and operating systems of all types. Many people claim the proliferation of tablets as the catalyst for this change. I’d personally identify the iPhone as the catalyst. And I'd go further by saying that it's not the proliferation of the iPhone itself that has been the catalyst, but the people to whom the device has been spreading: corporate executives.

As traditional enterprise phones fell behind other devices, people were tired of carrying comparative paperweights and weren’t interested in carrying two phones. Additionally, the iPhone put smartphone capability in a sleek, easy-to-use package that was interesting to traditionally non-techie corporate CXOs and other executives. These execs pushed for corporate support of the devices because they were using them and they were hearing that their peers in other companies were adopting them. From there, the devices propagated through the company.

The next wave has been composed of tablets, Android phones and other devices, and this is where the concept of BYOD comes in. The word "no" used to be commonplace in the vocabulary of enterprise IT and the CIO/CTO. In the past, they would have easily handled this problem of BYOD, but now the end user with the request is an equal or senior in the company.

Unfortunately, BYOD is wrought with complication and risk. Most enterprises have enough issues trying to secure and maintain current IT environments with standardized images and hardware. Adding a BYOD model exponentially increases this complexity, and, with that, costs.