Thursday, July 7, 2011

The IT Conflict: The Network vs. Users. Part 1


We can all agree, working in IT has its challenges. A friend recently asked me "What has been the most significant challenges in IT recently?"

To that I say "how much time do you have?"

Over the years we have seen many technology innovations.  Some have been business focused while others have been consumer focused.  Business focused innovations improved network performance and reliability, application intelligence, business efficiencies, and security. Consumer innovations have focused on features, functionality, and ease of use. Often, consumer innovations have created headaches for the IT department.

I remember, back in the day, installing VPN servers when dial-up modems were the norm. Who would use a VPN when they could just dial in? A short time later, broadband Internet connections exploded, end user signed up like mad, and nobody wanted to access corporate resources through a dial-up modem any more. We struggled to install VPN servers with enough capacity.

Then wireless Ethernet appeared. Business users could connect their company provided laptops to their home wireless networks, but still had to plug-in at work. Why did they have to plug-in at work?  “Can’t the IT department implement wireless as easy as at home?”

So we struggled to install standalone wireless access points. They were cumbersome, then we figured out centrally managed wireless networks were much more efficient.

Today many organizations have deployed remote-access VPNs and centrally managed wireless networks. Business users, from home, hotel rooms, conference rooms, airports, Starbucks, or other locations, can securely connect to the corporate network. In the physical office, business users can connect with wired or wireless connections and easily access the same systems. We even can support “Guest” wireless connections
We could finally rest,  IT finally caught up to the users. But, like Steve Jobs likes to say, “but there’s more”. ...Great!@$%

Now we have business users bringing in other devices not provided by the IT department. I have a customer who has a XBOX in a conference requiring wireless Internet access.

It is now a reality; IT Departments now have to support Smartphones. Business users expect “always on” connectivity.  Users expect to not only have continuous access regardless of their platform.

Not only does the IT department have to pay for the Data plans, they now have to support the wireless Ethernet connectivity requirements. It would be easy to not support wireless Ethernet connectivity, but the cost of cellular data usage has to be considered. It is now financially prudent to allow Smartphones onto the business network.
Now, do we want the smartphones on the “Guest” wireless network, or the “internal”. Both have their advantages. “Guest” lets the user connect like they are at home but they may have to sign in to a “Guest” splash screen.  An “internal” wireless connection may open up the network to security hazards.

And then someone in management had to go and get a tablet. It could be an iPad or an Android device, it doesn’t matter. The IT department didn’t buy it, but it needs to connect to the network.  When the connection doesn’t work, we hear “what do you mean ‘no more IP addresses are available’”, “when I’m in my office, Angry Birds is slow”.

In my next installment; Unified Communications – home user features vs. business users’ functionalit


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