To protect their networks and serve campus constituents effectively, IT departments need a mobile strategy that encompasses both the devices and the applications they run.
While many higher-ed IT shops are still struggling to handle the flood of mobile devices onto campus networks, some industry experts now advise schools to adopt a broader strategy that goes beyond BYOD to encompass the applications they run, too.
“We are transitioning from BYOD to bring-your-own-application (BYOA)—it’s really about the application,” said Chris LaPoint, vice president of product management at SolarWinds, a Texas-based company that develops IT management software. “The applications that run on those devices are potentially more important than the fact that these devices are showing up on the network. That’s the landscape of the problem.”
According to LaPoint, BYOD and BYOA must be tackled as part of an integrated strategy that rests on three key considerations:
- What are the bandwidth needs of all the devices and applications running on the network?
- What are the security implications of the applications running on these devices, and the data being shared?
- How can the school detect and handle improper—or even illegal—use of devices and applications?
Ramping up the bandwidth capabilities of campus networks certainly ranks among the top IT investments at many colleges. “Where we’ve really had to adapt and adjust is on our wireless network,” said Charles Spann, assistant vice president for service delivery and communications for the Division of Information Technology at George Washington University. “We’ve been in the process of upgrading our wireless network over the last two years, and it seems that whenever we finish our last wireless upgrade project it’s time to start the next.”
While student consumption of bandwidth has gone through the roof in recent years, the wireless network now plays an increasingly central role in teaching and administration, too. “Faculty are leveraging [student mobile devices] to be more creative in how they conduct their classes,” explained Spann. “It’s becoming more common for faculty to conduct an online quiz at the beginning of the class, for example, or have students take a test over the wireless network on the laptops they bring to class. This has caused quite a surprise at times when a faculty member’s use of a technology has got ahead of our wireless upgrade.”
But is increasing the size of the pipe alone enough to ensure that vital instructional applications are available when students and faculty need them? “Doubling down in terms of infrastructure and network access control makes a lot of sense,” said LaPoint, “but if you’re not thinking about it end-to-end, then you’re missing the point.”
(Next page: Narrowing apps for your mission)