Let me reflect on two technologies that have been emerging—and increasing—trends in technology and higher education: "Bring Your Own Device" (or "BYOD") and Cloud. Over the last few years, these topics have recurred in my blog:
"Bring Your Own Device" or "BYOD" refers to the "consumerization of technology," where employees bring their own computing devices to the office and connect to work resources.
- Update on Morris campus technology strategy
- BYOD and e-learning
- Morris campus technology strategy
- Email on mobile devices
- IT in 2012
- What to do about BYOT
- On clunky software
- Consumerization of IT?
- The consumerization of IT
- Your smartphone at work
"Cloud" refers to outsourcing applications, systems, and sometimes servers to an outside party who provides a common, shared environment for all.
As an IT Director, I tend to approach both from the same perspective: managing risk. When the institution deploys a desktop computer or a laptop to a user, we can control what software gets installed (for example, to ensure the device has anti-virus software, etc), that the hard drive is encrypted, and that the operating system is locked down with an appropriate configuration. If the device is ever stolen or lost, we know what controls were in place to protect any institutional data (grades, etc) that the user may have stored there.
But that's not the case with BYOD. When users bring in their own laptops and tablets to use at work, the IT department has little to no control over how that device is used. We also don't know what data could be stored there — yet if that user device is ever lost or stolen, the institution is still responsible for the inappropriate loss of any private data.
So IT Directors tend to view emerging trends like BYOD and Cloud with two minds: it's great that the user is happy, but we worry about securing the data.
Fortunately, BYOD and Cloud are also intermixed, and we can leverage one to support the other. You may have noticed an increasing trend for applications to move from traditional "client-server" to "in the Cloud." With the Cloud, the data lives elsewhere and you access that data through your web browser. It's very difficult (and sometimes impossible) for users to download copies of sensitive data to their local computers — with BYOD, that's usually tablets and laptops that users bring from home.
The key is that the IT folks need to be involved in helping the institution with Cloud applications. In many instances, IT is already very engaged with the campus to bring Cloud into the university; U of M Gmail is one example. When IT can be part of the Cloud solution, we can help ensure that the Cloud provider has certain controls that protect the university. At Morris, we've helped several groups with their Cloud implementations, such as the Morris alumni networking application. Our role is to support the campus. Talk to your IT team, and let us help you with Cloud and BYOD.