Businesses have much to gain by embracing the bring-your-own device (BYOD) trend.
Ferret has previously investigated the rise of the trend on the factory floor, and how smartphones are changing the way we do business.
According to a recent Gartner research study, CIOs working at manufacturing companies now rank the investment in mobile technologies as a top priority.
This focus will have repercussions on how manufacturers allocate their IT budgets, resulting in greater mobility-related purchases such as smart phones, tablets, mobile security products, wireless networks and, most likely, cloud-based storage services.
These types of changes are expected to dramatically impact how processes are executed on the shop floor.
To start, users will start requesting to execute production processes, input or view work instructions or evaluate manufacturing intelligence from their hand-held devices.
While most organisations are already moving in this direction, many have yet to fully understand and address the multitude of effects that BYOD has on enterprise WLAN performance, security and compliance.
Process industries, plant managers and IT groups are all taking note; not only do they have a number of legitimate security concerns but, in refineries, chemical plants, mines, and other industrial facilities with hazardous areas, the field devices must be also certified to operate in those environments - a requirement that excludes most consumer devices.
Fluke Networks has explained four network BYOD impacts every organisation should be aware of when monitoring the corporate network.
IT initiatives to tackle BYOD challenges often focus on mobile device and data management. Those measures can be critical for successful BYOD adoption. For example, using a mobile device manager to provision secure WLAN settings and remove them after device loss, theft, or retirement. However, these do not fully address the many ways in which BYOD affects corporate networks.
Chris Taylor, Fluke's regional sales director - Asia Pacific - HATA Region, explained that, “today’s BYOD challenge is to find effective methods and tools to discover smart devices used in the workplace, assess their impact on the corporate network, reduce unwanted side-effects and facilitate trouble-free business-appropriate use.”
Four network BYOD impacts
1. Unplanned devices compete for scarce airtime and drain WLAN capacity: Network planners have traditionally designed for the capacity required by corporate assets such as the number of IT-procured laptops. However, the number of smart devices carried by each individual continues to grow, surging in unpredictable ways. When employees return to work after a holiday with new BYO smartphones and tablets, capacity planning assumptions can be quickly blown out. Not only does competition for shared channels grow, but Wi-Fi chipsets in consumer electronics differ.
2. BYODs behave in unexpected ways, degrading overall performance: When IT departments select a smart device, network planners can first verify interoperability and isolate constraints like unsupported Wi-Fi data rates or modes that cause some clients to use more airtime. However, IT has little control over BYOD selection. Most BYODs are less robust consumer-grade devices. For example, although iPads support 5 GHz, they aggressively prefer 2.4 GHz, which can lead to unexpected starvation of Wi-Fi phones and other single-band devices sharing limited 2.4 GHz channels. Android tablet and smartphone Wi-Fi behaviours are even more varied.
3. BYODs may operate insecurely, jeopardising corporate assets: Today, virtually all Wi-Fi-certified smart devices, including BYODs, are capable of supporting WPA2-Enterprise security. However, corporate WLANs secured with WPA2-Enterprise are sometimes off-limits to unapproved BYODs that aren’t enrolled in directories or issued certificates for 802.1X authentication. These unapproved BYODs may then resort to using open guest WLANs where they expose traffic to eavesdropping and various man-in-the-middle attacks. When IT does not monitor BYOD activity, such exposures go undetected.
4. Even approved BYODs can be difficult or costly to troubleshoot: Consumer-grade smart devices often lack remote diagnostic interfaces and tools for help desks to investigate and resolve problems. For example, remote control agents supported on laptops and Windows phones are unavailable for iPhones and iPads due to Apple iOS restrictions. While some Android original equipment manufacturers (OEM) offer proprietary extensions for logging and diagnostics, the vast majority of Android BYODs support very limited administrative application programming interfaces (API) that don’t help IT troubleshoot remotely. As a result, malfunctioning BYODs often remain a mystery, sapping WLAN performance indefinitely. Further, BYODs have grown so numerous that IT departments may not have sufficient staff to troubleshoot them.
WiseTech Global's Ralf Moller added that "at the end of the day, no matter the aesthetics, a consumer-focussed mobile device is unlikely to provide the reliability and interoperability you’ll need for a fast paced logistics or supply chain business.
"Rather than starting with the device and then trying to figure out what software you want to run, it’s a much better idea to start with the software and work backwards to select the right mobile device.
"While the newest devices might be alright for the consumer, chances are they are all wrong for your business."
On top of this, in some cases these devices must also be certified to operate in what could potentially be a hazardous area.
Taylor added that “ignoring the BYOD impact on corporate networks can degrade business efficiency and increase operating costs. Until organisations acknowledge and address these challenges, they can’t harness the business benefits such as using BYOD to reduce monthly telecom spend and liability for personal use of corporate phones”.