April 21, 2012, 7:57 AM — When venturing into new terrain, Boy Scouts pride themselves on being prepared for all sorts of dangers. For Clint Andrea, IT director for the Northern Star Council Boy Scouts of America in Minnesota, new terrain comes in the form of bring-your-own-device iPads, along with the danger of data loss.
"With more managers working from out of the office than ever before, it's important we provide remote employees with instant access to the network without compromising on security," Andrea says.
Clint Andrea, IT director, Northern Star Council Boy Scouts of America (Photo courtesy of Ryan Siemers Photo + Design)
An organization exploring iPad use isn't anything new, but the Northern Star Council has taken a somewhat different path. Andrea is using BYOD as a test bed for iPads, as well as a new cloud-based virtual private network service that doesn't require much startup costs or end-user hoops to jump through.
The Northern Star Council isn't just some Boy Scouts troop; it serves 75,000 kids and 21,000 adult volunteers in 25 counties. On the tech side, Andrea and another IT staffer support 150 workstations, 30 printers and 18 servers. All tallied, 108 employees spread out in two offices and remote sites tap the network daily.
Recently, a handful of employees wanted their iPads to plug into the network.
Andrea saw an opportunity to test the BYOD movement to find out how an iPad can really benefit the Northern Star Council. After all, BYOD employees are passionate about technology. They'll explore and test out apps and usage scenarios to prove that the iPad deserves a place on the network.
"By having people bring their own, they'll be the power users to help us figure that out," Andrea says. "The value of the iPad is going to be in finding those apps."
But IT can't leave apps up to BYOD power users alone. Andrea says IT must be intimately involved in choosing apps because BYOD users will often ask IT for advice. Consider file browser apps: There are lots of choices, and all can access files. But to the end user, they all look the same.
For IT, though, file browser iPad apps differ in many ways. The "right" iPad app may depend on how a network is already set up to work with workstations, thus making things a little more unified. "You've got to spend some time playing with them and figuring out what's good, what's bad," Andrea says.
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While many CIOs start a BYOD program with designs to let more employees bring in personal devices, Northern Star Council takes the opposite approach. If BYOD iPads show their worth and begin replacing workstations as the go-to computer, then Northern Star Council will likely flip BYOD into a company-owned iPad approach.