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How to make your mobile device work at the office

BYOD makes workers more engaged and connected to work regardless of their location, but it does present network challenges.
Written by Rob Shaughnessy, Contributor
Mobile usage is rising dramatically, placing greater strain on networks and creating bandwidth and connectivity issues. The high demands mobile users place on networks are also exacerbating this situation. With the increased popularity of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, the boundaries between work and personal are blurring. As a result, people are using mobile devices to check work email, review and work on documents and a host of other work-related functions.

The increased popularity of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) creates unique challenges and opportunities. On the plus side, workers are more engaged and connected to work regardless of their location. However, BYOD also presents network challenges.

As more critical information is accessed outside of brick and mortar, wireless and broadband companies need to plot the best way to accommodate the spike in traffic. Enterprises must also be prepared to help their employees remain connected regardless of their location or device.

The rise of mobile
The number of mobile users has sharply increased in recent years. As of June 2011, according to CTIA, a non-profit organization supporting the wireless industry in the United States, there were 322.9 million wireless subscriber connections. This represents a 745 percent increase from five years ago, when there were 38.2 million wireless subscriber connections. The International Telecommunications Union estimated that by the end of 2011, there were six billion mobile subscriptions.

Consumers rely on their phones and mobile devices for a wide variety of purposes such as listening to music, downloading apps, surfing the Internet and watching videos. More people are also using personal devices for work-related functions such as managing email and working on documents. Unlike texting or making a phone call, this usage places an incredible strain on networks, consuming large amounts of data.

The surge in data usage coupled with the rise in BYOD threatens to overwhelm the infrastructure supporting mobile devices. As a result, some carriers have discontinued offering unlimited data usage offers. In the enterprise, companies are increasingly adopting WAN optimization to ensure they can quickly transmit and process information even in areas with low-quality or intermittent network connections.

Unfortunately, it is not feasible to physically expand the wireless infrastructure in the United States by for instance, building more cell phone towers. And the cost of doing so would be astronomical.

In this challenging environment, service providers want the ability to more efficiently utilize the bandwidth available. At the same time, consumers have grown accustomed to being able to use their phones for work and fun. The always-on worker armed with a laptop, tablet and phone is quickly becoming the norm. In response, enterprise organizations are also seeking a way to accommodate additional devices.

WAN optimization goes mobile
WAN optimization, once reserved for military organizations looking to move critical information in the field, is gaining momentum in the enterprise and could play a critical role in helping alleviate mobile network overload. Loosely defined, WAN optimization is a collection of technologies and techniques used to maximize the efficiency of data flow across a wide area network. WAN optimization enables organizations to transmit information and gain access to critical applications faster.

The enterprise is increasingly adopting WAN optimization as a method for transmitting information quickly and securely. For example, healthcare organizations using WAN optimization can quickly transmit images and patient data quickly regardless of network connections or bandwidth strength.

For companies and organizations seeing an influx of mobile workers and personnel utilizing personal devices, mobile WAN optimization provides the same benefits as WAN optimization but to mobile devices. This enables organizations to embrace remote workers and mobile workers, confident that they connect regardless of their location. WAN optimization can also help alleviate pressure on existing networks. For example, carriers can provide the same level of service while using only a fraction of the infrastructure to deliver it.

Conclusion As mobile devices continue to become more sophisticated and mobile device adoption continues to explode, pressures on the current networks will continue to mount. BYOD and the mobile worker are also creating issues for organizations and companies who want to ensure their employees are able to quickly access the information they need to perform their duties regardless of their location.

Organizations need to carefully evaluate the risks and benefits associated with employees using personal devices for work-related tasks. Employers should also clear communicate best practices for managing and using mobile devices for employees using personal devices. There should be clear acceptable using policies dictating the use of corporate-provided devices.

It’s also critical that carriers and organizations look for innovative ways to increase the effectiveness of their existing bandwidth. If the current mobile adoption continues at the current pace, soon they’ll have no choice but to embrace new solutions to address the situation. By embracing new technologies and solutions such as mobile WAN optimization, organizations will able to ensure that the mobile workforce isn’t left out in the cold.

Rob Shaughnessy is CTO of Circadence

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