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Napa County Bottles Up BYOD Phenomenon

In fall 2010, Napa County in California decided to address its data management concerns. The county's 1,600 employees had used BlackBerrys to access data, with every transaction routed through a central server. Then, the Bring-Your-Own Device trend hit and employees began bypassing the server with their own smartphones.

"We were becoming quite concerned about security and being able to meet our compliance regulations," explains Gary Coverdale, chief information security officer and assistant CIO for Napa County. So a new solution was found--one that not only restored order but also reduced the department’s support requirements.

The county, which is home to 130,000 residents, ranks as one of the world’s pre-eminent wine-producing areas. The county government consists of 26 agencies--including education, healthcare and law enforcement--that deliver various services to the locals. The IT group maintains central control of all computing resources, which includes Dell servers running Microsoft Windows, Cisco routers and 40 TB storage (soon to be expanded to 80 TB).

Central control of data is paramount to the county. Napa County has to comply with various local, state and federal regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the state of California’s data breach disclosure law. If it fails to do so, the county is potentially subject to costly fines.

The Research In Motion BlackBerry system had been in use for several years, largely because it provided much-needed data control. But its influence started to wane as employees brought their own smartphones to work. "With the RIM solution, we could not support or manage Apple iPhones because we had little to no visibility into them," says Coverdale.

Problems could arise if one of the mobile devices was lost or stolen. The IT department could wipe misplaced BlackBerrys clean, basically locking all information, so it was not open to intrusion. That wasn't an option with the Apple iPhones, so outsiders could gain access to sensitive county data.

Facing potential fines, as well as bad publicity, the county began to search for a mobile management solution. "Quite honestly, few tools were available," says Coverdale.

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