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Enterprise networks need to address mobility trends

In order to accommodate employees' mobility needs, network engineers need to tackle three key considerations: bandwidth capacity, data security and privacy protection.

The trend toward mobility continues to surge -- and has implications for all businesses. Nowadays, almost everyone has a smartphone, and as bring your own device (BYOD) plans become the norm, IT has no choice but to keep up with growing mobility trends.

Not only has the number of mobile users surpassed desktop computer users, but mobile users are now spending more time on their mobile devices than their PCs, placing unprecedented demand on company networks to support all this traffic.

Keeping the status quo with the network is not an option. Here are three areas that must be addressed to support mobility trends and enable employee productivity.

Increase bandwidth capacity to meet mobility needs

For BYOD to provide business value, IT will need some degree of analytics capability.

Overall, more bandwidth capacity is needed to support widespread use of mobile devices properly, and many businesses are finding managed Wi-Fi to be an effective solution. Whether managed in-house or by a third party, you'll need to scale up for spikes in traffic, especially when the workday begins.

Another factor will be how mobile usage patterns differ from fixed-line phones. Millennials in particular have mobility needs that tend to favor text messaging over voice communication, so, in this regard, the network load impact should not be problematic. Not only does text consume less bandwidth, but it's not in real time, so there is less sensitivity to fluctuations in connectivity.

Conversely, these end users will be more video-centric -- and this is where bandwidth becomes more critical. If management views video as a cornerstone for enabling collaboration among an atomized workforce, IT will need to plan accordingly for bandwidth support.

Focus on device management to keep business data secure

Data security is a complex area of enterprise mobility trends, and one that technology can only address to a point.

A state-of-the-art network won't be enough to safeguard business data if employees don't follow basic security protection procedures. Furthermore, in this capacity, IT can only do so much since a lot of mobile activity occurs off the network. And since most mobile devices are used jointly for business and personal needs, the business data stored on them will be vulnerable even in the most casual sessions, such as connecting over the public Internet during personal time.   

Considering these mobility trends, IT will likely need to deploy mobile device management (MDM) to protect both the devices and the local area network (LAN). This plan will entail some level of encryption for all flows of mobile communication, including voice, email and browser access.

By extension, in addition to securing business data running over these devices, employees might expect that their personal data will also be secure when using these same devices for work.

Take advantage of analytics, but respect personal privacy

Privacy is as much about trust as technology and is another key network consideration amid mobility trends. Mobility allows employees to communicate more effectively with everyone -- including customers and suppliers -- creating a multitude of new touch points for anyone interested in predictive analytics. The implications for both big data and Big Brother are significant and, being so new, remain poorly understood.

Employees need to know that employers aren't tracking their every move, at least beyond what is reasonable for work. However, for BYOD to provide business value, IT will need some degree of analytics capability, either on the LAN or hosted in the cloud.

As employees spend more time on their mobile devices, along with working remotely, the associated data will be critical for monitoring performance. Wherever these analytics are stored, the network needs to have safeguards that are transparent to employees so they know their privacy will be respected fairly.

Next Steps

How IT managers can prevent negative BYOD network impact

The mobility trends to watch for in 2016

Infrastructure must support UC mobility needs

Dig Deeper on Mobile Unified Communications

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How is your organization addressing your employees' mobility needs?
It is still the status quo for us. BYOD is permitted but policies are extremely strict, which prevents most employees from choosing to use personal devices for work. 

Using a company mobile device is actually not common, either. They are only given to managers, and even then not to all managers. 

So - on the bright side, no network bandwidth issues for us! 
In my current environment, not even a free wi-fi. But youtube and social networks are also blocked; these policies are aimed to increase productivity.
I guess I’m lucky in that our organization has recognized the value of allowing employees to work on mobile devices. The conference rooms are equipped with the myriad connectors used by mobile devices to connect to the projectors, they’ve enabled mobile support in Skype for Business, and we’re currently working on updating our internally used web applications to incorporate responsive design to better accommodate mobile devices to name a few ways that we support mobile devices.