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New
York-based IT solution provider BlueWater Communications Group is on the front
lines of an emerging trend for VARs and MSPs – how to secure an increasingly
mobile fleet of consumer devices that are accessing corporate information and
networks.

From
iPads to iPhones to Android smartphones and tablets, increasingly company
boundaries are being pushed. Corporate-issued Blackberry smartphones are in
decline. Executives and other workers want to use their own tablets and phones.
They want to BYOD (bring your own device.)

“A
lot of our customers are coming to us because their own employees and
executives in their organizations are asking the IT leaders to enable access to
the network for their personal devices, their tablets and smartphones, and it’s
creating a burden on the IT department in being able to process these requests
securely,” said John Marchese, senior vice president of sales engineering BlueWater
Communications Group which offers a host of solutions to customers, including
unified communications, in several verticals, including finance, manufacturing
and healthcare.

The
trend is gaining steam now more than ever. 
Why the sense of urgency?

“Because
there’s a demand from the employees to be able to leverage their own
investments they’ve made in this. If they can find that they are more
productive using these devices even in their personal lives, why should they be
held back using these personal devices in the corporate environment?” Marchese said.

However,
there’s a catch. IT is accustomed to being able to control devices on the
network and user experiences with those devices.

Indeed,
customers’ three biggest concerns in fulfilling these BYOD requests are security,
performance and manageability, Marchese said. By design, consumer devices are
not managed by the corporate IT department, and that lack of corporate control
that can put the company’s data and other IT infrastructure at risk.
Additionally, when the devices access corporate resources, they can’t always
deliver the performance required to reap the productivity benefits mobile
devices are expect to offer.

It’s
a daunting challenge. Businesses need visibility into the devices accessing
company resources, and visibility and performance must be consistent whether
the connection is cellular, or via a home network, a VPN or a public Wi-Fi
hotspot.

“Many
of the customers across multiple verticals, including financial and healthcare,
are looking for help in really defining their strategies” Marchese said.
Customers in financial and healthcare are among the first verticals looking for
help due to security and compliance concerns that come with non-secure mobile
devices in the network. Plus, executives and workers in these fields tend to be
mobile, pushing the boundaries of security. It’s a balancing act.

The
BlueWater approach to solving problems associated with BYOD (bring your own
device) is to develop strategies based on the use cases of the industry and
user. The BYOD problem often is tied into an opportunity that begins as a
mobility or wireless deployment, and then BlueWater focuses on building a
policy engine on Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine), part of the Cisco
TrustSec solution, that can be used across wired and wireless environments, as
well as via VPN. BlueWater is a Cisco Gold Partner.

The
use cases are as varied as the companies enabling BYOD policies, according to
Marchese.

For
instance, BlueWater recently worked with a customer in the healthcare industry
that needed to ensure granular security policies on its wired network to meet
industry regulations. BlueWater built an access control policy solution based
on ISE. As the customer began to realize the benefits of the policy engine, it
realized it could do more. BlueWater drafted a BYOD initiative and rolled out
the access control policy for use on the company’s wireless network. Now,
employees can bring in their devices of choice, including iPads or other
tablets, and connect securely to the network without putting customer data at
risk.

In
a completely different type of use case, BlueWater worked with a museum that
was interested in gaining visibility into the types of devices visitors were
bringing onto its network. The goal was to provide a more dynamic museum
experience through exhibit-specific applications. BlueWater designed a system
that can identify and profile mobile IP devices within the museum, providing
the museum with information about how many smartphones and tablets are on the
network at the same time. Additionally, the museum can segment the devices and
push them into a captive portal where content can be pushed to the customer or
exhibit-specific applications can be provided to customers.

In
the future, the museum will be able to integrate the infrastructure with a
location-based system that will enable it to push relevant exhibit content to
devices in specific locations. When this becomes a reality, customers standing
in the vicinity of a specific exhibit will get customized information pushed
directly to their mobile devices for additional exhibit data.

Mobile
devices are everywhere these days, from the smartphone in your pocket to the
iPad in your client’s briefcase. Why not leverage them to increase worker
productivity and customer experience?