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Confusion around BYOD in education a key opportunity for VARs/SIs

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is at the tip of the industry's tongue, and this will undoubtedly continue throughout 2013.

While educational institutions (like many other sectors) are attempting to formulate and implement BYOD strategies, the search for a silver bullet, in unison with the demands of the student and educator, is deterring IT departments' ability to do so effectively in many cases.

Learn how smart CIOs are protecting customers from security breaches

This uncertainty, alongside the initial confusion in defining BYOD, presents itself as a good opportunity for value-added resellers (VARs) and system integrators (SIs) to initiate a conversation with a potential customer.

In referring to the recent BYOD in Education report for Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ) by IBRS, commissioned by Dell, Dell end user computing director, Jeff Morris, said, "Our research uncovered a number of discrepancies in definitions, perspectives, and BYOD requirements."

As such, Morris said that VARs and SIs should begin by asking the customer who the intended user is based on function, and what applications, content, and devices they use. This basic step is a gateway to a more technology-based and contextual discussion.

"I can't emphasise enough the importance of the conversation," he said. "This will help resellers educate the customer and define their needs effectively."

"Be mindful that one size does not fit all and give examples of how you can tailor a solution to the customer," Morris said. "Customer needs, their current infrastructure, risk tolerance and overall strategy for the organisation will be your foundation."

The next step is to work with the customer to define policies and acceptable devices, protect the data and manage the infrastructure, and empower users to access data at all times.

VARs and SIs need to advise their customer to consider BYOD from five technology perspectives: network, email, compliance, virtualisation, and licensing.

The first point needs to be approached by questioning whether the customer's network is secure once a student connects, and whether the existing wireless network can support additional devices now and in the future. Morris proposes the question whether the network backbone has the capacity to deal with the increase in traffic, and how can the right traffic be prioritised?

Considerations around email are primarily around confidentiality and the security status of emails if a device were to be lost or susceptible to breach.

Compliance comes down to monitoring and restrictions, and ensuring that compromised devices are declined access to the network. In addition, the VAR/SI must assess whether it is ideal for the customer to restrict access to specific versions of a mobile operating system (OS).

On the virtualisation front, VAR/SIs need to assist customers in deciding whether this mode of delivering content and the ability to centrally manage the information and applications from the datacentre is appropriate.

The question for licensing is which are required when personally owned devices access the institution's network.

According to Morris, the best way to hold these discussions and take advantage of BYOD in education is to host an educational workshop in order to understand the customer's vision, and provide options and recommendations to mitigate risks. This contributes to gaining the trusted advisor status.

Follow Nermin Bajric on Twitter: @nermin_au


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