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Local centralized management or cloud: Which is better for mobile learning and BYOD programs?

Local centralized management or cloud: Which is better for mobile learning and BYOD programs?
There are two key technology trends for which, as they converge, IT professionals are facing complex repercussions: the increasingly insidious world of cyber-attacks, and the ever-expanding capabilities of our smartphones.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs are becoming more popular in organizations all over the world, as people expect to be able to use the myriad of apps and work-related websites from the comfort of their personal devices. Samsung and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan recently found that smartphones not only boost employee productivity by 34%, but provide employees with almost an hour extra of personal time, meaning that allowing the use of smartphones at work is not just acquiescing to personal preference, but arguably good for business.

However, as multitudes of unmanaged devices join the company network, the threat of data breaches or ransomware attacks increases. Upgrading company networks to withstand the increased bandwidth, security threats, and use cases is no easy task; some companies opt to switch to remotely-managed cloud-based networks that provide scalable BYOD capabilities, as opposed to local networks with centralized management.

When balancing the need for security as well as flexibility and scalability with BYOD programs, the big question, therefore, is: What’s better — local centralized management or cloud network with remote management? The answer is it depends.

The cost of security

There are many different considerations and decisions to be made when building a BYOD program, such as which apps and mobile operating system versions are company-approved, how to balance employee privacy with data collection, how much extra bandwidth will be required, and what the various processes to follow are if a device is lost or stolen. Once the answers to these questions are worked out internally, the network will have to be built or modified to satisfy the requirements. This means more work for the IT team.

Remotely-managed cloud-based networks from third party suppliers, set up to manage BYOD programs, tend to be much easier to install than building or modifying a local network to meet the new demands. Highly-skilled IT professionals may not need to be hired in-house, and thus, the upfront and maintenance costs are dramatically lower. And as a BYOD program grows alongside the business, the employee count and the number of devices, a SaaS program is inherently easier to expand, without the complex internal network adjustments.

Update considerations

Good cloud platform providers monitor and maintain the hardware and software involved, as well as regularly update it with the latest technologies to ensure newer cybersecurity methods and standards are constantly kept in check.

Opting for a more expensive local centralized network has its advantages in personalization, however. Companies with specific needs can build their networks to satisfy those requirements and control the configuration of the BYOD program in-house without having to rely on a third-party supplier. The latest technology developments that are more relevant to the company could be implemented faster, as opposed to being at the mercy of the third-party to conform to the specific needs of every individual customer.

Staying compliant

Working with a third-party cloud network provider means that they are ensuring their product complies with the regulations that affect your company, employees, and customers. The 2018 European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), for example, affects companies operating in the EU or with any customer living within it. Having a locally managed centralized network means that the IT professionals can configure with the specific company activities in mind and meet compliance regulations accordingly.

Some cloud-based networks don’t meet compliance regulations in particularly sensitive industries, such as healthcare. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which stipulates certain technical safeguards for organizations that work with patient data, requires companies to ensure that protected health information (PHI) cannot be downloaded to unsecured, personal devices. Pairing the choice of remotely managed cloud-based network provider with the specific industry compliance considerations is therefore crucial, and is sometimes more complex than working with a centrally managed network under the IT team’s control.

What’s best for you?

When deciding between a remotely-managed cloud-based network or a locally-managed centralized one for a company’s BYOD needs, IT managers must work out which route is right for their individual companies. From the kind of business they operate, and thus the kind of data worked with; to the office locations, the number of users, and the types of applications required for work; thorough network assessments are key to ensuring the most relevant security decisions are made.

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