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FCW : October 30, 2013
Commentary | SANJAY CASTELINO Want to scare an agency IT profes- sional? Ask if you can put your unlocked iPhone on the internal agency network, and chuckle as your victim ages before your eyes. Federal IT leaders are tearing their hair out trying to determine how to best manage the growing demand for personal devices on secure net- works, also known as "bring your own device" or BYOD. The collective freaking out over BYOD, while justi ed, misses the larger point: The ght between agency IT departments and end users isn t over devices. It s over the applications on those devices. Federal workers rely on a variety of applications --- from calendars to task tracking to productivity suites --- to do their jobs, but those applications might not be avail- able on their government-issued devices. It s not just agency business workers either. Even government IT professionals are trying to get access to mobile apps to help them do their jobs more effectively. More than just giving end users what they want in the form of a wider choice of mobile apps, deliv- ering on the promise of "bring your own application" can also offer IT departments far more security and stability in their operations, espe- cially in the face of BYOD chaos. From a purely functional stand- point, BYOA is the same as BYOD, except for the fact that application management is far easier to imple- ment than device management, especially on an ever-growing scale that includes multiple versions of Windows Mobile, iOS and every avor of Android imaginable. Keep in mind that BYOA doesn t mean every application will be given a green light. Instead, only those that have a measurable business use and can meet agency IT security criteria will be allowed. BYOA, however, is easier said than done. How does an agency embrace customized mobile busi- ness apps while keeping rogue devices at bay? Some federal enti- ties are already using one emerg- ing strategy: an app store coupled with simultaneous control of the server-side applications to which the users apps connect. Similar to the General Services Administration s apps.USA.gov or the Defense Department s pend- ing storefront, agency app stores would feature agency-approved applications that are created inter- nally or, more likely, delivered by third-party providers. That allows for end-user customization while making agency IT professionals lives that much easier, at least in theory. With almost every BYOA client application on a mobile device, there will be a server-based, agency-monitored app that controls authentication and access to the data. That client/server relation- ship makes it easy to add layers of access control to speci c apps, which are managed on the agency side via secure authentication and authorization technologies. For agencies that are too con- cerned about security to readily engage in bring your own anything, an alternative could be the adop- tion of another emerging trend: mobile-friendly Web applications. Rather than focusing on client/ server applications, agency IT professionals could begin direct- ing users to secure, mobile-friendly portals for standardized apps, much as they already do for tasks such as email. Personal devices would be treat- ed like any non-standard device, and additional security layers could be added via a secure token or fob. Even in the private sector, BYOA adoption is very much in its infancy. But given the struggles that BYOD has brought about, agencies need to stop ghting over devices and start embracing a wider swath of mobile applications, and perhaps even solve a few other IT head- aches along the way. ■ Why agencies should focus on apps, not devices The bring-your-own-app craze can actually make life easier for federal IT professionals who are struggling to contain BYOD The fight between agency IT departments and end users isn't over devices. It's over the applications on those devices. SANJAY CASTELINO is a vice president at SolarWinds. 12 October 30, 2013 FCW.COM
September 30, 2013
November 15, 2013