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Considering a BYOPC strategy

BYOPC has benefits and risks. As the BYOPC trend continues to grow, it’s important for organizations to consider the pros and cons of a BYOPC program for end users and IT pros.

BYOPC lets end users choose their own computer to use for work and personal use. Technology trends have helped...

IT easily support these PCs, but there are plenty of security and management considerations involved.

Bill Kleyman, MBA, MISM, and virtualization architect spoke with about the bring your own PC trend that’s making its way into data centers.

How does BYOPC differ from BYOD?

The key difference is that bring your own device (BYOD) refers to a broader range of applicable devices. With BYOD, we’re looking at iDevices, Android platforms, phones and other devices capable of connecting to the WAN [wide area network]. With BYOPC, we’re isolating the devices to more computer-based platforms like laptops and personal desktops.

Initially, when there was a jump on “bring your own anything,” [the idea was to] let the end user use any single device they want and access the central workload that way. Now there’s a distinction where organizations knew they had to figure out which devices they were going to support, how they were going to be managed and how the workload would be delivered to the endpoint.

What are the forces driving interest in BYOPC right now?

Desktop and data center management is a driving force behind the BYOPC initiative. The whole “BYO” initiative is really revolving around this effective marriage between virtualization and cloud computing. The back-end systems have gotten so good that we really don’t need an endpoint anymore. IT admins realized [that they should] offload this endpoint management cost and let the end users manage their own devices. From there [they] can deploy images, workloads, virtual apps or anything end users still need to be effective.

For IT, what are the pros and cons of implementing a BYOPC program?

I think the end goal of this is to make IT’s life easier. There’s this removal of an endpoint, where you have some thin client or nothing at all. [Ideally,] an administrator can relaunch an image or configure an application without actually having to go down to a user to help them out.

However, this is a really new technology and a new tool for both administrators and users. There are still some security questions that need to be answered. There are still some connectivity questions that need to be answered. There’s some optimization that needs to get done. So IT managers have to be aware and have to know how they’re going to be utilizing this kind of program, how they’re going to be developing and delivering it down to the end user. The reality is, you can’t just say, “Here’s your own PC, here’s a Web portal. Connect to it and get your own email or workload.” There has to be some planning behind it. In some cases, this kind of planning is revolutionary and new to IT departments.

When a lot of users hit a system at the same time, others might see a slowdown or there might be a slowdown in the data center, so that caution needs to be taken into consideration too.

From the end-user perspective, what are the pros and cons of BYOPC?

Well, the immediate benefit is “Hey, you got a laptop? Are you comfortable using it? Fantastic.” Here’s a tiny little client and you have access to our entire workload. The negative is [that] there’s still this unfamiliarity with these devices and how [they] work. Users don’t always use best practices when accessing the core network. They feel like it’s their own device so they feel that whatever they’re doing is legitimate, even if they’re improperly using the tool they’re being offered by the company.

The rule is, even though the user is using their own device, they’re still responsible for their actions on the network or when accessing the workload. So some of the cons for the end user might be the separation of personal versus business and how their own personal PC is actually using and accessing the corporate network.

What else should an organization consider before implementing BYOPC?

Create a supported devices list. That’s important. You’re still going to have some kind of a small client, a very small footprint (10 or 20 MB) installed at the endpoint. There needs to be a list of which devices you’re going to use.

Take [policy] considerations directly into BYOPC. Prior to deploying anything, there needs to be a core understanding both at the IT and the end-user level to allow proper policies to be put in place -- for example, making sure a user doesn’t improperly download files to their personal PC, or monitoring what they plug in or even having an endpoint scan. On an end-user computer, they may be unable to connect to the network unless they have a certain iteration of patching or antivirus. These [decisions are] all policy-driven and policy-based.

Another interesting approach that some organizations have been taking is [creating a stipend program]. A company may find that over three to five years it will cost roughly $3,000 to manage a laptop or desktop for a user. With BYOPC an organization may initiate a stipend program giving end users $2,000 to buy a pre-determined supported computer that they can use at work and at home. From that point on, the responsibility of repairs to the hardware falls on the user.

Organizations need to remember that security policies and usage best practices still need to be applied even though the end user is using their personal hardware. New sets of questions need to be asked before this type of platform is deployed. For example:

  1. “Can my environment handle X amount of users simultaneously?”
  2. “Is my WAN link capable of handling X amount of connections?”
  3. “What new security considerations must we make before we deploy this centralized workload?”

What’s your take on the next couple of years of this BYOPC trend? What’s next?

The [BYOPC trend] is going to continue to take off. The future looks pretty bright. I don’t think it’s going to be as crazy as some professionals maybe initially thought, but I certainly think there’s going to be adoption moving forward. The truth is, it’s a lot easier to have your own PC and access a corporate network. Many organizations are looking at BYOPC for a number of reasons. Some will use this initiative to help with compliancy or to remove older hardware at the endpoint.

More on BYOPC

BYOPC: Real world implementations and implications

Why companies can't ignore 'bring your own PC'

Over the next couple of years, what we’re going to see is that where VDI has kind of taken off, it’s going to really take off. Many organizations, especially with the end-of-life of Windows XP, are going to realize that they’re not necessarily ready to jump on the Windows 7 bandwagon because they don’t have the money to implement new hardware and maybe even licensing. So a lot of organizations are going to be looking at BYOPC to allow end users to bring in their own machines. [Then IT] manages a centralized Windows 7 image that they don’t have to worry about deploying down to a thin client or a desktop.

The biggest benefit comes in productivity, where if a machine goes down or an endpoint goes down, you [can use] anything else with an operating system or even a thin client so you can access your workload via Internet connectivity. The trend is going to evolve because the technology supporting it is going to evolve: unified architecture, better WAN capabilities and a better end user experience. A lot of these things are going to make BYOPC more seamless and more streamlined.

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