Network Connection

By Dr. Philip Baczewski, Senior Director of Academic Computing and User Services and Deputy Chief Information Officer for University Information Technology


You may know the meaning of BYOB, but have you heard of BYOD? Rather than referring to a particular kind of bottle, BYOD stands for "bring your own device." That's not just any device, either. The device in question is some kind of portable Internet capable gadget like a smart phone or tablet computer. Where are you going to bring such a device? The answer is to school or to work.

Smart and Popular

Smart devices are so popular, that most professionals and many students have have at least one and sometimes two or more. While smartphones are reportedly only 35% of the cell phone market, they are expected to grow to sales of over a billion world wide by 2014. Add tens of millions of iPads to the mix, and that's a whole lot of smart devices.

What makes smart devices smart is their ability to do many of the tasks we've previously only been able to do on our desktop or laptop computers. If you can browse the web, answer your e-mail, view and edit documents of various kinds, and talk on the phone, then you have a complete set of office technology that fits in your pocket. What may be missing from this picture are the files and data that you routinely use to get your job done.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

One solution to support office productivity is a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). VDI provides the applications and data available on a typical PC (usually Windows) within a window on a remote computer or smart device. VDI requires an investment in a substantial server and storage infrastructure, so it doesn't make financial sense right now to invest in a VDI infrastructure while still buying desktop computers for employees. However, if we all have a tablet computer that goes with us everywhere, including work, the days of a personal computer on every desk may soon be a thing of the past.

At school, at work ... 

BYOD in K-12 schools is being considered to increase access to technology-based instruction. While much is written about technology in K-12 education, the reality often falls well short of plans. At my son's high school, they didn't install lockers because they had a plan to use online textbooks. The reality is that students lug around 50 pounds of books on their backs. It's easier to talk about than implement technology. But many students are already bringing their own devices to high schools and schools seem resigned to this fact. They set rules about when the devices can be used, but seem unable to integrate these devices into the curriculum (perhaps because it's not on the test.)

In government, there are an increasing number of policies being developed to accomodate the trend toward BYOD. But use of personal devices is not without some additional complication. When government employees use their personal devices for work, those devices can become the target of e-discovery in lawsuits and public information requests. Other issues include security, support, and mobile device management, when there is a mix of personal and work software and data.

Obstacles remain

Policy and security issues aside, the greatest barrier to BYOD at this point may be one of functionality. As long as it remains difficult to access or manage information on a personal device, you are going to want a desktop PC of some kind as a home base. MacWorld has said, "The sad truth is that iPad file management is a chore." While cloud storage seems to be the ideal solution to file management, use of such services poses problems for organizations, including data security and integrity, data recovery, and reliability. And you may run the risk of losing everything you've stored in the cloud, if the service runs afoul of the branch of government run by the entertainment media.

And yet ...

Many of us already browse the web, receive our e-mails, and keep our calendars on our phone, so don't be surprised if your next PC is an iPad and you bought it. While we have a ways to go before all the tools are available to make BYOD a reality, the desktop PC may soon be a thing of the past. Let the technology party being. BYOD.