Wrangle Shadow IT and Empower BYOD with Hybrid Cloud

Written by Joe Kozlowicz on Wednesday, September 18th 2013 — Categories: Cloud Hosting, Hybrid Cloud, Cloud Hosting, Security, Virtual Desktop

You’ve likely heard of “shadow IT” or BYOD (bring your own device). Both terms refer to employees using private devices or software at the workplace—think iPads for work, or Google Drive to share files in a department. These practices may not be sanctioned by the IT department, but they improve productivity and save provisioning costs. However, they come with the risk of security breaches or other issues, causing IT headaches. By implementing an official BYOD policy and deploying hybrid cloud tools, companies can eliminate shadow IT and empower employees at the same time.

The days of issuing corporate devices for every employee are ending. There are many enterprises, especially in industries with regulatory standards, who must provide mobile devices to their workers. With the vast majority of the workforce now carrying their own fully capable devices, IT shops are starting to look for solutions to manage user devices rather than fighting them, improving efficiency and worker satisfaction.

But when a worker can be anywhere, on any network, how do you ensure the security of sensitive company data? Users could install malicious software by accident, potentially infecting the entire company network. Their own operating systems or applications might cause conflicts with company software as well. These concerns can be addressed through mobile device management (MDM) tools and desktop virtualization. The advantages of allowing BYOD—with a detailed strategy for managing these devices—far outweigh the trouble of provisioning new equipment.

IT departments can be slow to catch up to modern technologies because every new deployment comes with loads of testing. Everything has to be rolled out at once, forcing already stretched departments to evaluate compatibility with older systems, security protection, and more. Although the initial migration to a hybrid cloud can involve some effort, depending on the current infrastructure, new environments can be added quickly. This eases deployments as new resources are easily added or modified even if the initial demand was underestimated.

Specific cloud tools that enterprise-level companies may want to investigate include mobile desktop management and cloud storage. Green House Data has implemented VMware Horizon Suite in the past, as it integrates seamlessly with existing vSphere environments. However, offerings from Citrix and other providers are also available. These mobile desktop management tools use small client apps on any mobile device to connect to and control a virtual desktop. They can set up custom user profiles (ideal for departments with different needs), user customization, application preferences and more. These MDM tools often include cloud storage management, allowing users to save information and install apps in their virtual machines.

Cloud storage can also be set up separately. Storage applications include a variety of functions from sorting data to automatic backup and restoration, or they can be as simple as a virtual drive that is accessed in much the same way as physical drives. By setting up an official location and application for cloud storage, IT departments can stop various groups from sharing via Dropbox or Google Drive, which is a potential security and compliance threat.

Employees can use their own devices, whether they are tablet, phone or laptop; or Android, iOS or Windows. IT can deploy identity-based app settings to control who has access to and control of data and devices. Devices can be completely or partially wiped remotely in the case of security breaches. Business information can be stored separately from personal apps and data, providing comfort to both users and administrators.

These tools can nimbly deploy virtual work sessions that will persist even as users login from different devices and locations. MDM and cloud storage combine to allow secure remote access to business apps and data, enabling even remote printing or 3D graphics editing. Because every employee receives their own login with a virtual desktop that features the applications and data they need for productivity, IT departments know there won't be compatibility or security issues on the mobile device.

All of this functionality can be tied to existing infrastructure through tools like the vSphere Connector. Maintain security through two-factor authentication, or by isolating authentication networks to make sure users can only use company information through a virtual machine, with their own login.

As mentioned above, the migration to a hybrid cloud comes only with a period of planning and preparation. Hybrid environments are relatively simple to extend on top of existing servers and virtual machines, but first IT departments must brief employees on the use of their new mobile device management software and, of course, require the installation of the local agents involved on all machines used for work.

Embracing BYOD can help companies embrace new technologies faster with less time and money spent. In the meantime, users are happy to have their own familiar devices (or happy not to have to carry multiple tablets and smartphones!) A secure hybrid cloud wrangles shadow IT with integrated cloud tools and easy-to-expand infrastructure.

Posted By: Joe Kozlowicz