Consumerization is one of the big IT buzzwords that you can’t seem to escape these days, but what does it mean
to VARs? The consumerization of IT has different meanings in the IT world, but one part of the equation has to do with end users connecting consumer electronic devices to enterprise networks. While it’s easy to dismiss this trend as a fad, several consumer electronics manufacturers are now factoring the consumerization of IT into their business model. Clearly, the consumerization trend isn’t going to end any time soon. At first glance, it’s easy to think of consumerization as completely irrelevant to VARs because most don’t sell consumer electronics. But selling the products themselves isn’t what VARs should be honing in on. Five years ago, you may have sold laptops to customers so their remote employees could get on their network. But today these employees are likely to be using personal tablets or mobile devices to connect to their networks. With that in mind, how can you take advantage of this trend? VARs can’t do much to stop the consumerization of IT and organizations seem to like it (at least up to a certain point) because it saves them money on hardware expenditures. End users undoubtedly view IT consumerization positively because of the constantly-improving flexibility it offers. Most VARs won’t be able to directly cash in on IT consumerization because one of the central tenants of the trend is that end user device purchases shift from the IT department to the end user. End users, of course, don’t usually purchase their electronic gizmos from VARs. They instead go to big name electronic stores or order the devices from Internet retailers. Using security services to draw in consumers Even though consumers don’t go through VARs, the news isn’t all bad. VARs may still be able to cash in on the IT consumerization trend, just not directly. As it gains momentum, keeping an organization’s network secure becomes increasingly more complex. VARs are in a unique position to educate customers on the increased security risks posed by IT consumerization and sell them solutions that will help to address any security shortcomings. One of the biggest consumerization-related security challenges that organizations are likely to face is that each mobile or tablet device has different capabilities and vulnerabilities. Simply blocking capabilities on these devices is not enough because users often find a way to circumvent the security measures that have been put in place. For example, I recently heard of an organization that prevented Android users from receiving email attachments due to recent Android platform virus concerns. But it was soon discovered that users were circumventing the restriction by simply opening their mail through Outlook Web Access rather than using the native mail client. These types of situations present an opportunity for VARs. For a VAR to prosper in this era of rampant consumerization, they need to be able to explain to customers why their existing security solutions are ineffective and propose creative new security solutions. While not all VARs are security experts, the consumerization of IT is bound to drive the need for new and innovative security solutions. By educating yourself on the latest security techniques now, you will be in a good position to sell security consulting services and products when the need arises. About the expert Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a six-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services, file systems and storage. Posey has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, he has written for TechTarget, Microsoft, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit his website at www.brienposey.com.