There are plenty of IT managers who would argue that device management – for PC, laptop and tablet fleets - has long gone the way of the Dodo.
In fact, Info-Tech analyst Mike Bassista agrees, recently suggesting that "organisations should treat IT as utility; any endpoint should be able to access the applications and services needed by its user. And like the power company doesn't need to manage light bulbs receiving electricity, IT doesn't need to manage endpoints receiving IT services". Whilst there is some merit to his comment, I really believe device management is more important now than ever before.
Virtually every company has encountered the problem whereby employees viewing IT as non-responsive actively purchase new hardware and software behind the backs of the IT department, in order to do their job. A 2014 survey by Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan found that 80 per cent of respondents admitted to using non-approved SaaS applications in their jobs.
This problem of shadow IT is creating a hidden, growing pool of assets that companies own but are unaware of, which creates legal, security and compliance risks. Imagine a scenario whereby an employee has downloaded software to a company PC, which is leaking records data to the internet. Any penalties and fines issued by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) would be aimed at the company and not the employee.
The main concern surrounding shadow IT is that this is just the beginning. As more individuals trust cloud based software and services, it is likely that growing numbers will bypass IT and download applications without thinking. The risk of data leakage grows significantly with increasing trust in the cloud.
Shining the light on Shadow IT
The real issue with shadow IT is the unknown danger. IT managers should be worried about those unseen, unmanaged, and unpatched PCs, Macs, tablets, and phones, which have a greater likelihood of being connected to the corporate network and pose a greater risk of data leakage.
Assuming that Wi-Fi and corporate networks are secure, the usual anti-viral / firewall protection is in place, what do IT managers need to be thinking about?
Endpoint management technology can counter shadow IT as well as support existing BYOD (bring your own device) practices by first discovering what devices are connecting to the corporate network. Second, the technology can run an inventory to understand what software is being used and by whom. Third, it is not only possible to patch those devices and applications, but manage them with the correct permissions in place.
5 essential factors of endpoint management
If, like me, you can see that endpoint management is very much alive and necessary, there are five things to consider before deployment:
Cloud-delivery: IT managers – and specifically those in large organisations with disparate sites – must be able to discover, patch and manage devices remotely. It's unrealistic to expect the IT manager to visit every site to load the endpoint management software.
Rapid discovery: if the process of discovering devices takes days or, worse, weeks, it's a waste of time and a security risk. IT managers should look to partner with a vendor or MSP (managed service providers) that develops an endpoint management service, which can work within minutes.
Reduce burden: if the endpoint management service actually adds a permanent layer of software code to each device, it is making more work for the IT manager, who will have to maintain the very code he or she has deployed.
Management automation: an endpoint management solution needs to automate repetitive management tasks; a good example is patch management. You need to know; that patches exist, be able to scan you environment to see if a patch is required and then deploy the patch. Selecting a solution that provides a patch content database can allow automation of the process.
Development road map: vendors must be able to clearly communicate the future of the services, which devices it will be able to identify, manage and protect now and in the future.
Endpoint management is more vital now than ever before. The devices we all carry into work are changing at a rapid pace and are increasing in number. Certainly, the laptop isn't going anywhere soon [anymore than the TV will be ousted from our homes]. Managing endpoints is essential to combat shadow IT, police BYOD and help organisations focus on what is important.
Ashley Leonard is CEO of Verismic.