If anyone in IT has had to deal with the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon for long enough to figure it out, it’s our universities and colleges.
Not only can’t they control what students bring to the campus network, they can’t control the faculties, either.
Research grants, after all, are typically used amongst other things to buy technology.
At the same time, there’s a high premium on security, integrity and — in this day of the electronic classroom — things just plain working.
So how do they do it?
First, there’s a resolute understanding of the need to set some minimal rules.
The WiFi isn’t quite open: you do have to login.
Single sign-on, with a userid whose attributes can be centrally driven, is implemented and accepted.
The single sign-on service, in turn, opens up the student’s or professor’s email, online course portal, file share access, and, if needed, administrative systems. It’s a strong reason not to go around it: you make your own life more miserable when you do.
Meanwhile, the bookstore sells technology, models selected and known to work well in the campus environment, coupled with service plans that take advantage of the institution’s buying power.
What this means is that a “name brand” service from Bell or Rogers (to name two) competes financially with the newcomers like Public Mobile and Wind (again, to name but two) as far as the buyer is concerned.
Meanwhile IT has a vendor to work with who conveniently stocks a reduced range of handsets, tablets, netbooks, etc. Still a healthy selection, but not an unlimited one.
The campus network, in turn, operates more like the public Internet than like the typical corporate network.
Controls are light. As someone who has taught at the graduate school level recently, I can assure you that lectures are filled with students on Facebook, on Twitter, texting, watching YouTube, and downloading torrents.
As long as the “corporate assets” are suitably protected, what you do on the network is your issue. Also your liability: that’s published policy.
The environment is not perfect, but it works, and works well, with tens of thousands of devices connecting and disconnecting constantly. Rooms seating over a thousand do not lose either service or speed: when was the last time you went to a conference and WiFi worked that well in a hotel ballroom?
These ideas all fit regular enterprises. Give a little room, get a lot of necessary structure back.