Traffic shaping in a BYOD environment

Traditionally, IT managers have been averse to ceding control over the devices, which are on the corporate/business network.

With the advent of the BYOD practice, IT Managers have now begun to allow employee's personal devices on the network, which are largely unmanaged. As of late 2014, it is estimated that 44 per cent of companies in the UK have a partial BYOD strategy and the number will only grow in the months to come.

Research firm Ovum predicts that nearly 15.4 per cent of employees using their personal devices to access corporate data are doing so without the IT team's knowledge.

There are several benefits of having a BYOD policy in the organisation, but with that also comes a growing concern over network security and availability as well. Here are some common concerns and ways to address them.

Security is a concern, and one size does not fit all

Organisations use MDM solutions to rein in the huge influx of personal devices, but that alone is not enough to ensure total network security.

To bolster their security, IT teams are also investing in Network Access Control, and Identity Management tools which tie in to their MDM tools. Some common security concerns which organisations have with regards to BYOD implementations are:

  1. Securing corporate data on mobile devices

With employees using their own devices for personal as well as official work, the device is now being exposed to two kinds of data - personal and corporate data. Separation of this data is important because this enables organisations to protect sensitive data to a large extent. This can be achieved through containerisation, which allows for data to be stored in an encrypted form in containers, using a MDM solution.

  1. Securing corporate data from unauthorised mobile applications

There are several applications on the personal devices of employees, and it is important that only approved applications have access to the corporate data. If an organisation has total management control over the device while on the corporate network, this wouldn't be of much concern. But if a user has the overall control over the device and can install or uninstall any application he/she wants, there is no way to restrict this activity.

White listing of applications through MDM allows organisations to limit the applications which can access the sensitive corporate data.

Even as steps are taken to assure network security, it is important that the bandwidth is not hogged through the personal applications installed on the users' phones like YouTube, Dropbox, Skype, and Netflix.

A clogged network can affect the Quality of Service (QoS)

Traffic shaping, or packet shaping, allows for regulation of network traffic to ensure availability of business critical applications and guarantee an assured level of application performance.

Traffic Shaping is done by increasing usable bandwidth to certain kind of applications and ensuring lower latency for business critical applications, while reducing bandwidth allocation for non-critical applications.

This is achieved by delaying the flow of packets which have been identified as non-critical. Regulation of traffic in such a manner is also called bandwidth throttling.

  1. Continuous availability

With a large number of personal devices now on the network, it becomes important for the IT team to ensure Quality of Service. Network managers can now prioritise and differentiate traffic for business-critical applications like CRM, mail, video-conferencing and ensure their continued availability.

  1. Real-time monitoring

More often than not, during major sporting events like a cricket world cup or a football derby, a good number of employees use their devices to either stream the match or keep track of the scores. This could affect the availability and performance of the business-critical applications. Network admins can monitor such traffic trends and take necessary steps to guarantee a percentage of bandwidth to the critical apps.

  1. Bandwidth management

With traffic shaping, it is possible to rate limit streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, etc to a fixed amount of bandwidth during business hours, and remove the rate limiting once the business hours are over.

The widespread adoption of BYOD proves that it is not a passing fad, and it requires serious thought and planning by organisations before implementing it.

While a MDM solution can help you manage the devices and address the security concerns, a good bandwidth monitoring solution is essential for continuous availability of business-critical applications.

Pradyut Roy is a marketing analyst at ManageEngine.