At first blush, the ever-burgeoning “bring-your-own-device” (BYOD) movement, wherein employees’ personal mobile devices are used in place of employer-issued ones, may appear to pose a threat to some VARs. On the contrary, however, it represents a viable pathway to profits.
Admittedly, resellers that board the BYOD train may end up selling less mobile hardware to customers, but the tradeoff—monies earned from BYOD security and management solutions and services—compensates for the loss. But only by tapping into this growing market now, rather than later, do channel players stand to fully capitalize on its potential. “BYOD has progressed from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ in many enterprises,” says Craig Badrick, CEO of Turn-key Technologies (www.turn-keytechnologies.com), a Sayreville, N.J.-based wireless solutions reseller and Meru Networks (www.merunetworks.com) channel partner. “Any VAR working within the network space, particularly, needs to seriously look at it as an opportunity that must be supported.” The rationale: Existing and potential customers are growing increasingly amenable to BYOD based on its potential to reduce mobile equipment expenditures and bolster employee productivity by enabling “wherever, whenever” access to the information they need to get their work done. They are also ceding to staff members’ demands to perform tasks with their own devices rather than to be forced to juggle, for example, one company-owned tablet and one they have purchased themselves.
Despite such acceptance, the vast majority of clients are relatively unsure of how to handle BYOD or what it entails on the technology front. “They need to be put onto firmer footing, and the best way to do this is through education,” purports VAR Paul Black, president of Comm Solutions (www.commsolutions.com), Malvern, Pa. Accordingly, Comm Solutions holds, in multiple cities, road shows where prospective BYOD adopters learn about the groundwork they must lay in order to move forward with an initiative (e.g., formulate usage policies and decide how to provision access) and what to look for in BYOD management solutions (the ability to work with any vendor’s switches, routers, firewalls and VPN devices, using both standard-based and vendor-specific methods). Covered as well are requirements that may apply to individual market segments (for example, healthcare providers will need to factor HIPAA compliance into their BYOD policies and solution selection).
Assuming a consultative/service provider stance, rather than a sales-oriented approach, proves equally effective in enabling VARs to gain and maintain a strong BYOD foothold. Jim Lawrence, vice president, product management, Apriva (www.apriva.com) advocates starting by querying prospects as to what they want to achieve by joining the BYOD movement, so that applications may be properly tweaked to support these objectives.
“Perform an opportunity-by-opportunity analysis,” he suggests. “That is the key to demonstrating value.” Lawrence also urges VARs to foster trust among customers by explaining that although transitioning to a BYOD model will almost certainly reduce their hardware expenditures, other costs—for example, those related to network security—may come into play.
Network assessments are another piece of the consultative puzzle, observes Jesse Frankel, product marketing manager, Fluke Networks (www.flukenetworks.com). “Unless the wireless network is examined to see what it will accommodate in terms of new devices—whether iPhones, iPads, smartphones, Androids, etc.—end-users might run into performance problems and issues that had not been anticipated when the network was originally designed,” he explains.
In performing assessments, Frankel continues, it behooves VARs to consider the special needs of potential end-users that offer Wi-Fi connectivity to guests (for example, in a retail store or café). “The network has to accommodate these devices, too,” he says, adding that many of Fluke Networks’ channel partners offer ongoing, periodic network assessment services to their clients, garnering residual income and increasing customer “stickiness” in the bargain.
Moreover, VARs can—and should—assist customers in creating BYOD policies. These policies should take into account not only the provisioning of access to the network and to various applications and data based on employees’ identity and job roles, but also which devices are permissible for them to use and how many devices each individual can “bring to the table,” states David Green, senior director, worldwide channel solutions readiness and alliances, Motorola Solutions (www.motorolasolutions.com).
“Resellers are really in the perfect position to take a very active role in creating these policies, because for end-users, it is largely unfamiliar territory,” concurs Ron DiBiase, vice president, sales and business development, Aruba Networks (www.arubanetworks.com). Just as significantly, they can build relationships with customers and open revenue streams by conducting regular re-examinations of the effectiveness of these policies and refining them as needed.
ADDING SECURITY TOOLS
Security tools are also an essential component of VARs’ BYOD service and solutions menu. In attempting to conduct a dialogue with customers about and sell them on these tools, resellers must emphasize that their importance does not lie only in protecting end-users’ personal information, but the company’s information as well. Sharing with prospects the results of a recent experiment conducted by Symantec (www.symantec.com) might help to drive this point home. The experiment involved the loss, in each of several large U.S. cities, of 50 smartphones that had been outfitted with simulated corporate applications and data. In tracking devices found by passersby, the company discovered that 83 percent had recorded attempts to access the data. These breaches were not accidental, with many finders having attempted to access files bearing such labels as “HR Salaries”.
To put clients on the security path, VARs must challenge them to “imagine if an employee does drop his or her phone containing company information,” asserts John Eldh, vice president, channel sales, Americas at Symantec. “What could the finder access, and what could it do to the company’s image and bottom line?”
Badrick corroborates Eldh’s comments, adding that any discussions about, and subsequent recommendations for, BYOD security must reflect the difference between protecting company- and employee-owned devices. Many organizations, he explains, have traditionally supported a single or limited number of mobile operating systems. With BYOD, they face the challenge of supporting multiple platforms and operating systems while simultaneously maintaining network security. Consequently, their best bet is to invest in solutions that supplement basic password authentication with multiple levels of security, including user authentication against a RADIUS server and active (or similar) directory; anti-malware; machine authentication; authentication based on individual user roles; and client integrity checks. Solutions of this type should also enable security policy enforcement and the ability to remotely “wipe” and disable lost devices.
Chet Lytle, president of Albuquerque, N.M.-based VAR Communications Diversified, Inc. (www.communictionsdiversified.com) counsels his clients to make wireless network monitoring solutions a part of their BYOD security arsenal. “We let them know that whatever productivity gains they make from going BYOD can, if they do not shore up the security of the network itself, be overshadowed by losses stemming from everything from hacking to toll fraud,” he asserts.
Vendors have made available for resale enhanced monitoring solutions that combine security and performance tracking. Fluke Networks AirMagnet Enterprise, Version 10, falls into this category. The solution features a new software sensor agent through which any Windows PC may be turned into a software-based WLAN sensor, permitting users to choose between standard hardware sensors, which are the core technology for monitoring WLANs, and a cost-effective software alternative for multi-site healthcare, retail and concession operations needing basic PCI or HIPAA compliance monitoring. Incorporating rogue detection and performance management capabilities, AirMagnet Enterprise, Version 10 also features a new management screen that provides a consolidated view of all data and controls to simplify investigation and containment of rogue devices, as well as what is being touted as the industry’s first Automated Health Check (AHC) capability for proactively monitoring WLAN network health from end-user devices through to the cloud. The latter reportedly allows root cause issues, such as wireless authentication failures, download speed degradation and application system outages, to be pinpointed before they impact the organization.
For its part, Meru Networks recently rolled out -E(z)RF-on-the-Go+, a downloadable app intended to enable network “anytime, anywhere” network monitoring. New as well are cloud-hosted subscription mobility service for the company’s E(z)RF and Meru Identity Manager WLAN security and monitoring solution.