According to research by Gartner, 38 percent of companies will require employees to supply their own device by 2016, with this figure jumping to 50 percent by the following year. IT professionals have been slow to embrace Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), citing security concerns among the primary reasons to stick with a company-owned model, where devices can be easily managed.
Microsoft is embracing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) with a series of new features in Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1, aimed at helping organizations better manage access to corporate data and resources from personally owned devices.
New features in Windows Server 2012 R2 include Work Folders, Web Application Proxy, Workplace Join. Work Folders is a new file synchronization service that encrypts files, in transit and on disk, across users’ devices. Work Folders can be wiped when a device unenrolled from management. The Web Application Proxy allows users to access Work Folders and other published web services, both on the corporate intranet and public Internet.
Workplace Join is like a standard domain join operation but without management features, such as Group Policy. It allows users to access corporate data and provides single sign-on (SSO) capabilities. Device Enrollment signs up a device for management via System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or Windows Intune. Device enrollment and Workplace Join can be used separately or together.
While BYOD is clearly a popular trend, Microsoft has reason to make BYOD as easy as possible for organizations. If businesses move away from traditional managed desktops, BYOD is likely to lead to an increase in Windows 8 adoption, edging organizations away from Windows XP, which many continue to rely upon. The cost of Client Access Licenses (CALs) for Windows Server products were increased by 15 percent at the end of 2012 to reflect the increased popularity of BYOD.
Microsoft does intend, however, to provide support in Windows 7 for at least one of the new features in Windows Server 2012 R2, Work Folders. Nonetheless, this will mean that if organizations want to take advantage of new BYOD features in Windows Server, running Windows XP will not be an option.
Consumers replace devices more frequently than businesses out of a desire to run the latest technology. This is evidenced in the fact that users often complain that their home computers are much faster and have a newer version of Windows than their company-owned desktop. Businesses tend to refresh devices at a much slower rate, and even if new hardware is purchased, licensing agreements allow use of existing Windows images, so there’s no pressure to upgrade to the latest version of Windows.
Though the new BYOD features in Windows Server 2012 R2 will be welcomed by many organizations, they do depend on Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) and various other infrastructure components, meaning that Workplace Join and Work Folders will only be implemented by large organizations that either already have ADFS in place or that have the resources to deploy it.
While we’re unlikely to see an explosion of Bring Your Own Device based on uptake of the new features in Windows Server 2012 R2 in SMEs anytime soon, Microsoft has put a stake in the ground for solid BYOD support.