BYOD and Home IT


Hello there. It’s a wonderful summers day at 30,000 feet and I, as stated by many friends, am now obliged to write an airplane post. Although I might be expected to write this by this stage, I assure you, I am still doing this on a solely voluntary basis, plus, I have nothing better to do! For those of you who were bored out of your minds with the previous seriesof posts, I apologise, but I felt that it might help the next years doing the competition on their torturous journey, and it was nice to reflect on a year gone by, but this post, I have decided, will not have been thought through very well beforehand and will adopt a very decentralised structure.
I shall be talking about BYOD, bring your own device, is the “phenomenon”, as many IT departments like to call it, where the users of the network (at school/work/etc.) bring in their own devices from home and use them for work. In addition, I shall also be discussing my experiences with being the IT admin at home, and the annoyances that come with it. I plan to link them in some way I have not thought of yet: maybe a stroke of genius will occur or this whole post could fall flat on its face, that’s the fun!
I would like to say that my school has an effective BYOD policy in place, and to be honest, I will. I am lucky enough to go to a school that allows the use of personal devices within school hours and even lessons, if the teacher allows it. I am able to, if I wanted, take notes on my iPad and later upload them to my Mac all within the lesson. It’s great! Of course, no one abuses that policy to play games in the lesson, well, not me anyway: maybe the “lower third of the year”*. My sister, on the other hand, goes to a school with a, what I perceive to be, a militant ban on these devices, even during break. Both have their benefits and shortcomings.

Continuing with the example of schools, with an effective BYOD policy, much can be achieved. Students are able to look up extra resource material to aid their studies and learn how to efficiently and concisely take electronic notes or conduct quick research. In addition, in a school with limited IT facilities, students could bring in their own devices and have regular access to some sort of IT facility, or in a school like mine with ample facilities, teachers would not have to book an IT room, spend half the lesson walking there and the other half waiting for the students to log on to computers that should have been replaced many years ago, waiting for the dreaded Windows 7 “Group policy printers policy” to clear. I am amazed that Microsofts most advanced operating system still cannot form proper sentances.
On the other hand, banning this would allow for greater control over network usage, and for incompetent school IT departments [I note, ours is in my opinion more competent than the average…] it is useful to have the network standardised rather than being inundated with a very wide variety of devices. In order to accomplish such a BYOD deployment in a school, on the technical side, a separate physical network infrastructure or VLAN (virtual local area network) has to be created in order to separate different types of traffic, and from what I gleaned from a recent networking talk, that is not that simple. On the practical side, getting students to behave was always a problem, and allowing them to bring in their own devices would only worsen a pre-existing situation. I do believe, however, that schools should embrace BYOD, especially as it is becoming more and more ubiquitous.
Chances are, I am missing out a large, glaringly obvious point here, but, as I have already said, this post is being planned as I go!
The debate is much more heated in business environments. Employees are slowly becoming sick and tired of their offices crappy devices, especially Blackberries! (Sorry, had to include that. Have you seen their recent quarterly earnings report? They are going to go bust. HA! I told you.) As a result, they are starting to bring in their own devices, to the dismay of those hard working IT departments. They are asking to have access to their cooperate email, contacts, calendar, etc. on these devices, but the IT overlords deny this request. The funny thing is, the justification they give for this is the lack of security on these devices, but Google, Microsoft and Apple have decent exchange server integration with a high level of security and have all pledged to continue working on this integration, so their argument slowly sounds more and more like they cannot construct a cross-platform network or they are a bunch of control freaks, and in all honesty, most IT departments are. The reason for this might possibly be the fact that they have so much to worry about! IT is possibly the most vulnerable point of the security of a company, so if important documents get out through an employees iPad, IT get the blame, so it might be beneficial to be overly secure rather than overly lenient. It’s a balance that has to be sorted out carefully for BYOD to ever work.
So, now is the time for me to artificially link the problems cooperate IT face with the problems I face in my day-to-day life. To do so, let me give you an example. I have noticed that at school, when the Xerox photocopier does not work while a technically incompetent student is using it, the blame immediately gets shifted on to our IT department, despite the fact that Xerox photocopiers tend to be highly annoying machines that hardly ever work correctly or it’s simply the students incompetence, which is most likely the case, like not hitting the big green button or failing to notice the big “release documents” option. At home, my technically incompetent family (sorry, but it is true!), especially my sister, like to print annoyingly useless documents in full colour. As I like to keep my household up to date, I bought a wireless printer. How wrong I was to do so. They suck, basically. This means that whenever my sister wants to print three pages of A4 full of pictures for her locker, she shouts, “Nicolas, the printer is not working!”. It at this stage I am forced to drop anything I was doing and assist her in something I have shown her countless times, then notice that the printer has no ink left due to other previously printed “very important locker pictures”, proceed to order new ink, all while listening to her shouting at how important these things are and how her Mac sucks for not being able to print these very important pictures, while I am in the process of scrambling to finish long overdue homework at 11pm. A typical evening. Please note that this example is only one out of many, like listening to my dad go on about features Apple should add to the iPhone: the exact ones that killed Blackberry or Windows Phone 6.3.
So, aside from the large amount of technically incorrect things technologically incompetent people like to say, there is some underlying point here.
What on earth is my family going to do once I leave home? It will be a disaster!
No, seriously though, I like to think of myself as a small network IT manage at home, and it is astounding how 4 people can make you want to crush every single of their computers with a hammer. I applaud those who have to work in cooperate and school IT environments. It must be an absolute nightmare. So, to those few technically incompetent reading this, I say be nice to your IT manager! For future reference, I define a technically incompetent person as one who is unable to give a rough definition of Linux or name a Linux distribution. Go on; try it on your friends!
P.S, I was recently informed that the school got rid of that Xerox. Halleluiah!

*This is part of a year group classification system my Toyota Technology Challenge team invented. If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to contact me and I might write a sort post about it
Image Source: Damballa Blog

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