5 things to do before wearables hit your network


5 things to do before wearables show up

The Apple Watch ushered in a new wave of personal technology that employees are carrying into the workplace. And industry analysts are predicting rapid growth: A recent report from Business Insider predicts the global wearables market will grow at a compound annual rate of 35 percent over the next five years, reaching 148 million units shipped annually in 2019.

While the corporate world has embraced and even encouraged various forms of wearable technology, such as fitness and activity trackers, government agencies have not been as quick to adopt the growing trend – and for good reason. 

The recent data theft from the Office of Personnel Management computer systems revealed how vulnerable agency networks already are to attack. Wearable technology creates more points of access on these networks that not only create security issues but also drain bandwidth and cause performance problems.

IT departments must take charge of the network before wearable technology takes charge of them. Before these gadgets show up on the network, IT should consider the following five steps:

1. Monitor the network.  IT professionals should check their network monitoring capabilities and make sure they have the settings optimized to offer transparency around who is connected to the network, what they can access and what bandwidth they are able to consume. With carefully monitoring, personal device and wearable technology issues can be identified before they become a real headache.

2. Benchmark for wireless access. Define a benchmark that accounts for which users connect via which devices, how many devices are expected to be used and what is being accessed from those devices.  The benchmark will help IT develop a thorough understanding of how wearables could impact the network’s bandwidth and  then identify design changes needed.

3. Implement data-driven policies:  While many wearables will access networks via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, they will typically require a connection to a laptop, computer or tablet so they can synch data. Say hello to a slower network and a potentially bigger bill from the Internet service provider. IT must review network usage, security and bring-your-own-device policies. By establishing BYOD or wear-your-own-device usage policies, IT can support users with multiple devices, while maintaining acceptable wireless availability and performance.

4. Review security. Today, many organizations find that each employee has one to three devices accessing the network; in a matter of years this could rocket to 15 to 20 per employee. From a security standpoint, gaining oversight and managing the data that goes through the network will be the biggest challenge. First, determine that devices accessing the network or the information being transmitted are legitimate. Second, ensure that all files are encrypted and being transferred through a secure, transparent platform rather than an unsecure Enterprise File Sync and Share application.

5. Create policies for usage. If agencies going to embrace wearable technology, and many would argue it is only a matter of time until they are forced to, this will require clear policies determining who is allowed to bring the equipment into the workplace and connect to the network. These policies should be adopted before wearables have become entrenched in the workplace environment.

There are a number of benefits wearables can provide for employees, both personally and professionally, and agencies should take advantage of these benefits to drive performance improvements – once the network is prepared to sync with these devices.  

About the Author

Aaron Kelly is a VP of product management at Ipswitch.


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