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Consumerize This: Supporting consumer devices and cloud

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How limited mobile device support can help IT handle consumerization

To deal with consumerization, some companies limit mobile device support to specific devices because it makes management and app development easier.

Embracing the consumerization of IT doesn't mean you have to support every new device or service that comes down the pike.

Dan AntionDan Antion

American Nuclear Insurers, a power insurer in Glastonbury, Conn., has had mobile workers since the mid-1990s. And Dan Antion, vice president of information services, said he understands that employees who want to be more productive are driving the consumerization trend. But his four-person IT department doesn't officially permit consumer cloud storage use or offer mobile device support for Android because of security concerns and staffing limitations.

Antion shared his experiences with the consumerization trend and how his company has incorporated mobility and cloud computing in secure and manageable ways.

Do you offer mobile device support for employees' personal smartphones and tablets?

We support iOS and Windows Mobile devices, but not Android. We bought and deployed iPads because we wanted certain capabilities that not everybody would choose to buy for themselves. We wanted them to be 3G devices. We don't overly control them, but we do outfit them with the MaaS360 [Mobile Device Management] app for security.

What do you mean by support?

On iPhones, if you want to connect to email, we'll connect you. If you want VPN or other features on your phone, then you have to let us put the MaaS360 app on there.

We would support Windows Phones if anybody wanted one. We sort of standardized on iOS because most employees have or wanted iPhones, and when we deployed tablets, the iPad was the only real option. We didn't give them a choice because we are building an app for the iPad, and I really don't want to have to develop apps for multiple platforms.

Unless there is a major shift in adoption among our employees on the phones they buy for themselves, I don't see us getting too cozy with Windows Phone. That said, the security, integration and the ability to manage them seem to be in place, so they are welcome to connect to our network.

Initially the app market for Android kind of scared us. It seemed like anybody could build anything.

Why don't you have mobile device support for Android?

Initially the app market for Android kind of scared us. It seemed like anybody could build anything. They seemed harder to control. They seemed harder to manage, harder to wipe. And I know a lot of that has gotten better, but we're a small company with 34 people, and I think 24 of those people have iPhones. It's about the limits of what we can support. We have a couple people that use Android devices, but they haven't expressed an interest in working from them. It hasn't been an issue yet.

And you're using MaaS360 for enterprise mobility management?

Yes. We use it so we can send out alerts, like if the office is closed due to a storm. We can push apps out to [users]. We just recently had somebody who was travelling overseas, and he had the app installed, and we got a notification that his data roaming spiked. So we sent him an email saying, "Hey, it looks like you re-enabled data roaming. You probably don't want to do that. And if you had to do that, that's fine, but get to a place that has Wi-Fi, please."

How would you describe your approach to the consumerization trend?

We try to be proactive. We did have a couple of people who brought iPads into the organization before we decided to deploy iPads, so we were a little bit behind the lead on that one. We were probably ahead of it with the smartphones, because it was much earlier.

In terms of services, software and apps that people might want to use for business, I think we're proactive. We tend to stay a little ahead of the curve on that, introducing to people what [they] can do. Like, "Here's how you can connect to SharePoint, and here's the app we want you to use, and we'll pay for that app and we'll push it out to your phone, if you want."

Does your company have a BYOD/mobile device policy?

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We do. It's not extensive, but we've had it since before BYOD was a term. We just communicate to people: This is what you can do, this is what we'll reimburse you for, these are the features you can have, these are the features you can have if you add [MaaS360], and these are the responsibilities.

Then there's an educational effort. Your corporate identity is bundled into that phone, so you're going to have a PIN on it and you're going to have to let us know if you lose the thing. There's a fair amount on the education side, trying to get people to understand that I don't care that it's your device, I don't care that it has your data on it, I don't care who paid for it. It's our information, and we all have to work to protect that.

Do you let employees use consumer-focused cloud services? Have you looked into enterprise services?

We have some enterprise accounts that people can use. We tend to really focus on education with these things, because some of it is scary. We don't want people [to say], "I'm going to use Dropbox because you won't let me use the cloud." We'd much rather be there and say, "What do you want to use it for? You want to be able to share large attachments with people you're working with?" We try to have answers for people so that they don't have to go around us to do their jobs.

If you're an IT pro who wants to share your experiences with consumerization in a future Q&A, email Margaret Jones, assistant site editor.

This was first published in May 2013

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