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Cisco Welcomes BYOD With Open Arms

At Cisco, almost 100% of employees' mobile devices are BYOD. Cisco's senior manager of IT mobility services Brett Belding shares the company's BYOD strategy with BYTE's Boonsri Dickinson.

Networking company Cisco has more than 50 different mobile devices on its IT approved list, which allows devices to access corporate e-mail, calendars and contacts. Forbes has even said that the number of mobile devices would soon surpass the number of Cisco employees -- and at the stated rate of adoption, it probably already has.

BYTE spoke with Brett Belding, Cisco's senior manager IT mobility services, about consumerization of IT in the enterprise and how they handle employees who bring their own devices.

BYTE: What is your biggest BYOD concern?

Brett Belding: Hands down, security is the biggest concern regarding BYOD/mobility. We use an architectural approach to security that includes a clear policy, Cisco AnyConnect, Cisco Identity Services Engine, one of our partner's MDM solutions, and continued communications with our user base. We enforce a PIN, automatic lock, and reserve the right to perform a local and remote wipe of all data if needed, and encryption. We leverage a combination of single sign-on credentials and certificates for authentication.

BYTE: How much will the Surface/Windows Phone 8 or iPad Mini play a role?

BB: On average we add about 400 tablets to the environment per month, all BYOD. The large majority of those are iPads, although we do have a small number of Android tablets and BlackBerry PlayBooks as well. We see the iPad Mini as a complementary offering for those who want to stay within Apple's ecosystem but want a more portable device. We haven't yet formed an opinion on the Surface RT because we just got ours delivered. We'll know more after we spend some time with them. Ditto for Windows Phone 8.

BYTE: What MDM solution does Cisco use to secure the devices?

BB: We use one of our partner's solutions today. MDM is one component of Cisco IT's overall BYOD security strategy, which includes Cisco AnyConnect and Cisco Identity Services Engine along with a clear, robust policy.

BYTE: Do you have any BYOD stories? And how was the problem resolved?

BB: Cisco shuts down most of the company at the end of December to give our employees a much-needed break and to conserve power in locations across the globe. In late 2010, we were preparing for this shutdown, and we realized that we were going to have a bit of a problem with support.

We run our support staff on a skeleton crew during that period, which works really well. The challenge arose when we realized lots of our employees would get smartphones and tablets for Christmas. On the one hand this is great -- we encourage our employees to use devices they find helpful -- but on the other hand we didn't want to burden that skeleton crew with a deluge of activation questions.

So we leveraged our WebEx Social community and sent out communications to employees telling them where to go to set their devices up on their own. Our employees enabled over 1,000 new mobile devices and only a handful needed to call for help.

BYTE: How many devices are BYOD vs. company issued?

BB: Well over 95%. Our policy says that all smartphones and tablets are BYOD. That said, there are some devices that we use for testing our own apps. For example, WebEx Meeting Center, Jabber, AnyConnect, and WebEx Social. And our own products such as Access Points, Identity Services Engine.

There are also a few countries where we still have to provide devices, although those are becoming more rare as our service provider partners enable our strategy.

BYTE: Does BYOD actually save Cisco money? Why allow employees to bring whatever they want? What's going to happen in the future?

BB: The devices were a small portion of our overall TCO. Since moving to our current BYOD strategy four years ago, we've been able to increase device counts 98%, increase users 51%, reduce support volumes by 53%, and reduce cost per user by 30%. We've seen the biggest cost savings from support; we heavily leverage WebEx Social to simplify setup and help users quickly solve problems. User satisfaction is up 33% as a result.

We see device, app and service choice as a clear representation of our culture at Cisco. We encourage employees to "work your way" and use multiple devices for a reason: it's good for them because it means flexibility and work-life balance, and it's good for business because it means added productivity and a happy workforce.

Our research, available in the Cisco Connected World Technology Report, reinforces our strategy of employee flexibility; people are demanding it, so companies need to figure it out. As long as you do it right, BYOD is very good for business.

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