Apps running on personal devices — smartphones, laptops, tablets — in corporate network environments can drag down network performance with unnecessary traffic and cause delays, failures, and poor voice and video quality on converged networks.
Most companies have developed systems for on-boarding new devices — provisioning passwords and network access, partitioning phones, adding remote wiping capabilities, etc. — but fewer have developed a management framework and implemented solutions for maintaining network performance assurance.
Companies that expect to maintain network performance while embracing BYOD need to take five basic steps to create a solid management framework.
1. Set policy around apps running on personal devices over corporate networks. Are users restricted to apps that can be downloaded from a company app store or can they run any app on the company network? Do you require personal devices to run specific apps?
2. Establish network service tiers. IT needs to be able to prioritize voice and data traffic in BYOD environments. This is particularly important in converged voice-data networks because latency-tolerant data traffic that gets equal priority to latency-intolerant traffic like voice and video, creates quality problems. IT must be able to create a tier for voice calls from employees to clients or other employees and give it top priority. Video traffic from YouTube or Hulu that may not be company business gets another tier with a lower priority. Gaming, most assuredly not a corporate priority, gets low or no priority. Creating a tiered environment will help you formulate key performance indicators (KPIs) for monitoring ongoing network performance.
3. Clearly delineate where the personal choice and productivity that come with BYOD has to give way to security. You are embracing BYOD to give your employees more choice while you benefit from their higher productivity. However, employees must accept that the ability to access, for example, the company’s customer database from a personal device is also a privilege. Gaining access from anywhere, anytime on the device of their choosing might mean that they can’t run apps from certain sources because they represent security risks.
4. Bullet-proof the network. As employees discover new mobile apps they will expect the network to work without interruptions or latencies. That means network assurance is crucial not only between and among mobile devices, but also among the back-office systems and databases that are invoked during the course of person-to-person interactions.
5. Implement monitoring and management solutions that determine how apps on personal devices are affecting the network. Apps that do not close properly, that run constantly in the background or ping the network looking for other users erode network performance. IT staffs must be able to instantly identify which applications are running on their networks and curtail their use if they’re a drag on network performance.
This last point — ongoing monitoring and management — will make BYOD work long term. The ever-rising tide of new apps is the main challenge to network performance assurance. The ability to monitor voice/video quality and application health in real-time is essential. Constant testing and monitoring can assure that all available bandwidth is allocated efficiently and services are well-provisioned.
As if there needed to be more proof that BYOD isn’t a short term trend, the number of user-owned devices operating on corporate networks is expected to reach 350 million in 2014, according to Juniper Research. Even the most locked-down IT environments have modified protocols and procedures so employees can share calendars, collaborate on projects or make themselves available to others at all times of day, regardless of location. This greater dependence on the network makes reliability more essential than ever.