Asumag 2558 Robert Johnson 1

Managing the “IPification of Everything”

Sept. 23, 2013
Tips for managing mobile computing devices such as tablets, notebooks, smartphones, as well as new IP-based devices at education institutions.

With the explosion of mobile computing devices such as tablets, notebooks, smartphones, etc. as well as new IP-based devices such as “smart” boards, appliances, security devices, wearable health and other devices, the implications for education institutions are many. Colleges and universities--especially residential and research institutions--must consider how to manage all these things securely and within privacy and other regulatory constraints. 

At most institutions, the IT department has sole responsibility for managing IP devices which, until recent years, have been primarily PCs looking after security, network performance and other things.  As students brought game consoles, tablets, e-readers and smartphones to the campus, this added to IT’s workload. Fast forward to today, and IP-based devices are everywhere, with more being added all the time. Clearly, the accepted management model must change because devices exist in most departments who’d prefer to manage their own affairs.  Moreover, IT lacks the capacity to manage the increased demands these devices are placing on them.

I recommend a federated approach led by the IT department to address this growing challenge.  IT should lead this effort since they have the most experience with managing IP-based devices as well as have unique expertise with information security and network management, two critical considerations.

To get started, a senior IT staff member should meet with leaders of departments with lots of IP-based devices, such as facilities, media/audiovisual, research, security/campus police, and the business/“one card” office to gain their support. Simultaneously, the CIO should gain the support of their boss, which will be necessary to gain institution-wide approval.  

Next, establish an initial cross-institution working team to review how each group adds and manages IP-based devices; determine jointly how IP-based devices should be added and managed in the future; and establish suitable processes and procedures acceptable to the various departments. These processes should include procedures for working with third-party vendors who often install and support these systems. Determine the level of urgency and response time required. Often, problems with the devices require IT network support. System owners in other departments must have a clear understanding of what to expect for response time during off hours. Having this conversation upfront will prevent significant tension when issues arise. 

If the cross-institution working team doesn’t have a solid grasp of all the various IP-based devices across the institution, consider conducting an audit or survey of what’s out there and coming in the next academic year.

Communicate this initiative campuswide and what people can expect, especially related to any assessment/audit being planned or procedural changes that might occur. Such communications will educate the community as well as gain their support of securely managing IP-based devices.  The initial communications likely will prompt a few other departments to want to join the team, all the better. Remember to provide frequent (e.g. monthly) updates to the entire community, including status and what’s coming next.

Keep in mind that new procedures or processes will need to evolve as this initiative proceeds.  You’ll learn things along that hadn’t previously been considered.

Johnson is senior director of strategic intelligence at Atrion Networking Corporation where he is responsible for market analysis and growth strategies. 

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