Many IT leaders will tell you that device management – for PC, laptop and tablet fleets – is already dead. Info-Tech analyst Mike Bassista agrees recently suggesting that “organisations should treat IT as a utility: any endpoint should be able to access the applications and services needed by its user. And, like the power company doesn’t need to manage light bulbs receiving electricity, IT doesn’t need to manage endpoints receiving IT services.” But, to the contrary, I really believe device management is more important now than ever before.
Employees viewing IT as non-responsive are actively purchasing hardware and software behind the backs of the department. End users are bypassing rather than engaging IT. Shadow IT is creating a hidden, growing pool of assets, which companies own, but are unaware of. This creates a legal, security and compliance risk. Imagine a scenario where a CIO or CEO signs off its Sarbanes Oxley report to say devices and networks are secure, but in reality their marketing manager has downloaded software to a company PC, which is leaking records data to the Internet.
Mike Bassista was really referring to BYOD in his statement, “…like the power company doesn’t need to manage light bulbs receiving electricity, IT doesn’t need to manage endpoints receiving IT services”. I don’t see it this way because the humble light bulb doesn’t present a major risk to the building within which it is fitted, but user-owned devices do present a risk.
Any organisation with a BYOD policy in place will still want to know that a device is operating securely when connected to the corporate network – that it does not present a security and compliance loophole. Of the few companies actually adopting BYOD policies, they’re realising it increases the need for endpoint management, not reduces it. Devices connecting to a corporate network still need to be checked for unlicensed and un-patched software in order to protect the organisation from security threat and compliance breach.
It’s also important to remember that the number of devices we all own is increasing too, I bet you’ve got at least three?! The laptop is not being replaced any time soon, but is being augmented by tablets and mobile devices. Employees are accessing all of these devices throughout their working day and beyond.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is also an intriguing development to trouble IT leaders – a potential evolution of BYOD. Employees may choose to bring personally owned, internet-connected devices, such as watches, cars, glasses etc., into the workplace. The IT industry is getting excited with analysts like Gartner predicting massive growth in this area. It says IoT, excluding PCs, tablets and smartphones, will grow to 26 billion units installed in 2020 representing an almost 30-fold increase from 0.9 billion in 2009.
What Should IT Managers Do?
Assuming Wi-Fi and corporate networks are secure, the usual anti-viral/firewall protection is in place what should IT managers being implementing? Well, in the case of IoT, maybe not worry about it! These small items are unlikely to pose a major threat to the organisation particularly if it is running basic WiFi security procedures. As long as the network is configured correctly, then any security threat will be minimised.
Endpoint management technology can counter shadow IT and support BYOD practices by first discovering what devices are connected to the corporate network. Second, the technology can run an inventory to understand what software is being used and by whom. Third, it is possible to patch and manage those devices and applications with the correct permissions in place.
Endpoint management is more vital now than ever before. The devices we all carry into work are changing and increasing in numbers, but the laptop isn’t going anywhere soon (anymore than the TV will be ousted from our homes). Managing endpoints is essential to combat shadow IT, police BYOD and help organisations focus on what is important.