As a VAR, it is easy to view BYOD as something that could hurt business, but the trend can actually provide a windfall for VARs who plan carefully.
The bring your own device (BYOD) trend is all about consumers using their own mobile devices to access network resources and data at work. It can make VARs uneasy for a couple of reasons: Most are not in the business of selling these devices, and they fear these devices could eat into their sales of PCs to corporate clients.
There are several areas, however, in which VARs can capitalize on the BYOD trend, including licensing, security and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).
BYOD license evaluation
One of the easiest ways for VARs to make money on BYOD is to offer license auditing services to their clients. An organization's existing software licenses are often inadequate to legally allow remote access from mobile devices. Because most of your clients probably want to continue lawful operation, you can offer your clients a license audit specifically targeted toward addressing BYOD-related deficiencies.
More on services for consumer devices
One of the main criticisms surrounding BYOD is that, by allowing end users to connect to the network from their own devices, it exposes the organization to security threats that might not otherwise exist. These security issues have received a lot of attention, so it should be easy for you to broach the subject of BYOD security with your clients.
There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all security for BYOD. Every organization has its own security needs, and VARs are in a unique position to identify those needs and sell products and services that help address specific shortcomings.
At the very least, your clients will need a comprehensive antivirus product. VARs can also offer customers a way to limit the resources that consumer devices are able to access. For example, if they only want users to be able to access email, contacts and a calendar, connecting clients through ActiveSync instead of through a VPN is a good option.
If your customers require more comprehensive access control, but you need to maintain data security, then VARs can offer a VPN that limits the resources that individuals are able to access based on the type of device that they are using.
For example, some products can connect non-Windows devices to specific network segments so that the devices only have access to the network resources that exist on that particular segment. This feature can prevent devices from accessing more sensitive network resources.
Another option is mobile device management (MDM) software, which can be used to apply security policies to mobile devices. Vendors offer different capabilities in their MDM software, but typically it can be used for enforcing device password use, controlling feature use, or even controlling the apps that can be run on the device. The first step for managing mobile devices with MDM is enrolling the devices in the management system, which may increase the administrative workload and delay the use of new devices for work-related activities.
Another way that some organizations are getting around the inherent security challenges of BYOD is by implementing VDI. With VDI, users do not access network resources directly through their devices. Instead, they connect to a virtual desktop session, and the secure virtual desktop connects to the network resources. Such architecture can go a long way towards mitigating the risks of consumer devices.
Some of your customers may argue that VDI can be expensive to implement. But VDI does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. It is possible to run virtual desktops alongside physical desktops within the same organization. As such, some organizations have implemented VDI on a small scale, specifically for mobile users, while allowing on-premise users to continue to operate physical desktops.
One of the biggest challenges that any organization allowing BYOD will face is that of support. It is simply unrealistic to expect the helpdesk to be able to support all manner of mobile devices, so organizations may turn to VARs. Solution providers can sell revised maintenance contracts that include services such as provisioning end-user devices and offering support for certain mobile operating systems.
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.