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75% of IT directors ‘fear BYOD will put too much strain on outdated wireless networks’

But survey finds 65% of companies have no plan to expand the capacity of their networks.

By Joe Curtis

More than half of IT directors in the UK fear their businesses are at the mercy of their wireless networks, which are coming under more strain as BYOD and mobile working become more common, according to a survey.

Companies fear their networks are becoming increasingly vulnerable as they struggle to upgrade them to cope with the proliferation of tablets and smartphones, found the research commissioned by IT solutions and services company Damovo.

The survey of 100 IT directors found that the majority of them admitted to taking an ‘ad-hoc’ approach to managing their wireless networks.

But Damovo’s principal consultant, Russell Silverland-Bishop, says the findings did not come as a shock to him.

"It was a bit of an eye-opener but it’s not surprising compared to what we’re seeing out there on a day to day basis," he explains.

"Often the problem is that it was first used not as a necessity but because it was something nice to have. It was just deployed into meeting rooms and areas where they thought users might need connectivity for devices when away from their desks.

"This is five, six, seven years ago. Back then technology was far slower as well, so they’re having to rely on these outdated networks to support such a large variety of devices now."

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According to the survey of the companies, each with employees numbering at least 1,000, three-quarters feel that BYOD will place more strain on their services, but 65% still have no plans to remedy the situation.

And Silverland-Bishop says the problem is likely to intensify as increasing numbers of employees begin working from tablets or smartphones.

He says: "There are going to be some businesses that remain stubborn in not allowing this technology to happen but in the business world mobile working is really going to offer them benefits in terms of productivity and access to information wherever their employees are. It’s inevitable.

"The companies which dictate how people should work are going to be the ones who struggle. Those who offer a choice are going to be in a better position because they become more flexible. Employees feel more comfortable and they are going to be more productive."

The consultant believes BYOD will be the future for many companies because of the freedom and flexibility it offers, but that firms which do not improve their infrastructure to give it the capacity to support a multiplying number of mobile devices will not be able to take advantage.

"Forward planning is the key thing. The ability to manage your network on a daily basis while offering higher capacity and more usability will make it easier for both users and IT support to get on the network," he says.

But if wireless networks are not upgraded in line with an expansion of BYOD, it could slow down the service so much the company’s efficiency and productivity suffers, said the consultant.

"It could impact on the businesses badly," he observes. "Ultimately the main issue they will have is from a support perspective, they’ll get complaints from employees and users that it’s working too slowly and that puts another burden on IT, who may well have other pressing issues to attend to."

Forward planning and security investment is essential, Silverland-Bishop believes, but is not as expensive as people think.

"Security is absolutely critical," he says. "It’s one of the biggest concerns but companies often believe that improving it is cost prohibitive.

"But if it’s managed correctly by taking away the burden from IT support and automating it that isn’t usually the case.

"There are solutions that we work with that enable you to check a device and make sure that it’s a certain person before that device and person is allowed to join the network."

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