Tablets in the Enterprise: Drivers and Challenges
Mahesh Gupta, VP, Borderless Networks, Cisco India and SAARC
As the traditional corporate network perimeter continues to dissolve and the enterprise becomes borderless, Smartphones, Tablets, other endpoint devices, and web applications are irreversibly changing the way people work. A rapidly evolving workspace is now more:
- Mobile: By 2012, mobile users will make up 73 percent of the enterprise workforce, according to research firm Forrester.
- Virtual: Applications, data, even operating systems can be securely and reliably delivered using cloud architectures through intelligent networks that connect the many devices people use. Gartner predicts that by 2012, 40 percent of businesses will meet their communications needs using a blend of premises-based services and Internet/cloud-based services.
- Social: Traditional applications are being replaced by social media. Gartner predicts that by 2014, social networking services will replace email as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20 percent of business users.
- Visual: The prolific use of video, with YouTube and social networking sites such as Facebook, has made video the new voice. Cisco predicts that by 2013, 90 percent of traffic on networks will be video. Pervasive video will enable employees effectively and efficiently share ideas and expertise while reducing corporate operating expenses.
As enterprises strive to connect a more mobile workforce to network resources, they seek ways to allow for greater employee choice in devices while maintaining a common, predictable user experience that enhances organizational competitiveness, productivity, and security.
Gartner predicts that by 2013, 80 percent of businesses will support a workforce using Tablets. Tablets provide an opportunity to consolidate devices at the desktop, based on user preferences, work styles, and strategic IT objectives. They also have the potential to enable a range of new business applications and redefine business processes. Three main trends are emerging in the way enterprises handle the influx of these devices:
Several companies realize that employee productivity is highly dependent on employee satisfaction, which is in turn influenced by employees’ ability to use their device of choice. These companies allow employees to bring their own device to work. This trend is widely referred to as "bring your device to work" or BYOD. Two flavours of BYOD are emerging:
- Unmanaged devices: This is the most popular because it does not require any IT resources. It is also cost-effective because the company does not have to buy or reimburse the user for the device.
- Managed devices: Some companies choose to reimburse (up to a dollar limit) employees who buy their own device, and require specific security requirements to be met with those devices. The main difference between this category and the Sponsor category is that employees end up owning the device at the end of its useful life.
Although some organizations have begun using Tablets, IDC says, "Companies aren't yet buying Tablets for employees en masse (78% do not). Only a small percentage of Tablet-owning workers today are allowed to access the corporate network (35%), access corporate e-mail (17%), or run business apps (18%)."
Some companies provide Tablets to their employees as the primary computing device and even go as far as developing custom applications for them. They gain competitive advantage by converting a consumer device into a managed device that they have full control over. According to Deloitte Consulting, although cconsumer demand for Tablets will remain strong, enterprise demand is likely to grow even faster, albeit from a lower base.
At the other end of the spectrum, many companies still ignore the fact that employees bring their "consumer device" to work. These companies put their networks at risk if they do not instil controls on how these devices access network resources. If they prohibit the use of the devices, they risk the loss of employee satisfaction.
Businesses that wish to embrace Tablets need to maintain a balance between user preference and productivity, corporate security and compliance because the influx of Tablets in the enterprise brings a variety of challenges for IT departments.
User Experience and Utility Challenges
Companies that sponsor/embrace Tablets seek to maximize ROI and employee productivity. End-user experience and the usefulness of Tablets depend on the degree of support provided by the Network to build custom applications and deliver interactive multimedia experiences. Additionally, user experience is dependent on bandwidth availability and l network design, especially because virtual desktop applications put a lot of pressure on the network.
Getting unmanaged devices (Tablets) on the network and ensuring data integrity once they leave the network is a major challenge for IT. Careful screening and authentication is required before they are allowed onto the network. Once authenticated, security policies must be assigned to determine access based on who the user is (role in the organization), what device is being used, where and when access is permitted. IT needs to protect the devices from connecting to an unsecured network and handle sensitive data when family or friends use them. A multilayered approach is needed to secure users against infected websites and malicious traffic.
The need to manage and troubleshoot end user devices can consume up to 30 percent of IT budgets. The influx of Tablets in the enterprise can create a network-planning nightmare for many organizations, it is vital to have understood the types of devices on the network, their relative growth, and the demands they place on network resources. To effectively manage all device and user combinations(Corporate user with Corporate device and/or corporate user with personal device and possibly accessing the network simultaneously),including guests/vendors/contractor users across wired, wireless and Remote Access networks must become part of the network management strategy.
The Bottom Line
As the influx of Tablets and other unmanaged devices in the enterprise increases, organizations must develop holistic solutions that can effectively address the complex set of problems they bring along. This helps make the workplace more collaborative and present new opportunities for businesses. Like Gartner says, "People want to relate,share,communicate,enjoy,learn,discover,analyze,and create."