Dr. Strangedev, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Ever-Increasing Diversity of Devices and Services

There's been a lot of talk recently about BYOD -- much of it about how companies might possibly avoid the headaches it brings. But the task of "managing" BYOD will probably prove overwhelming for most businesses. You can't manage it, but you can't avoid it either.

It gets worse: The inexorable clockwork of Moore's Law means that employees may soon have dozens of wearable networked devices, potentially even internal medical devices, each trying to use whatever wireless network it can find.

It's time we all admit that BYOD is not a policy decision, but more an empirical observation. Attempts to fight it will waste resources and at best delay the inevitable arrival of a steady stream of new devices. It makes no sense to pursue a policy that is doomed to be ignored. Practically speaking, all you can do is try to figure out how to deal with the reality of BYOD - most importantly, to secure your systems from hostile agents.

At the same time, email and communication technologies are evolving almost as quickly. Innovative startups are building variants on email, or email-based applications, or clever gateways. We are currently experiencing a flowering of email-like technologies, such as AwayFind, Contactually, Sidebar, Zementa, MailApp, Incredimail and many more. Each of these is potentially a new vector for those who wish to make mischief on your corporate network.

How can a business cope with these twin explosions of options and capabilities? There are really only two options. One is to hire more and more experts at securing such devices within an enterprise, but such experts are likely to be highly in demand and costly to recruit and retain. The other is to make it someone else's problem. You can, in fact, move almost everything relevant to BYOD and security to the cloud. The effort to securely support each new device type is part of a cloud provider's core business, and they're amortizing those costs across all their customers. With a good, reputable provider, your quality of service is likely to go up, possibly dramatically so.

Of course, the cloud vendor then becomes a critical resource for your company. Choosing the vendor is thus incredibly important, as is devoting enough internal resources to maintain a rich, well-informed relationship with the vendor, so that you're likely to know early if there's something to be concerned about.

There are plenty of examples from the history of business showing that what makes sense to provide in-house at one point in time can be a no-brainer to outsource just a few years later. In the early days of electrification, for example, factories that generated their own power had a huge advantage, but they all moved onto the grid once a stable and reliable grid emerged. The best business in the future won't be the one with the most highly-skilled in-house IT staff, but the one that chooses cloud services carefully, and then pays ongoing attention to how those services perform, and works closely with them to get the best of all worlds.

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