Editor's Note: The Balancing Act of a Successful Consumerization of IT Strategy

Configuring, securing and managing enterprise systems to provide users a flexible workstyle means many of the devices will be owned by the employee rather than the organization.

By Mitch Irsfeld

You’re witnessing first-hand the trend: The technology used in the workplace and the technology used in our personal lives is merging. Moreover, many of the applications and services being consumed are also outside the network.

According to a recent IDC study, more than 40 percent of the devices used by information workers to access business applications are the devices they own themselves. And it’s up to IT to strike a balance between user expectations and enterprise requirements. This “consumerization” of IT is actually being driven by several technology trends, including cloud computing, social computing, big data, always-on personal devices, and the emergence of online app stores.

Embracing this trend means IT is ready to support:

  • Personalized corporate PC settings, data, and apps available on any PC device
  • Access to a corporate workspace from one’s own devices, including smartphones
  • Secure access to files, sites, apps, and people anywhere

From the perspective of users, the consumerization of IT translates into support for flexible workstyles and mobility to make them more productive at any time. At a high level, this trend is manifesting in several enterprise scenarios. The white paper Strategies for Embracing Consumerization explores the main scenarios, from enabling a diverse set of devices to securing and managing those devices. It also describes key considerations, including legal and compliance issues.

Your ability to leverage this trend will foremost depend on your ability to provide unified management across multiple devices and secure those devices, which could range from PCs and slates to smartphones. 

We’re already walking the walk at Microsoft and in a unique position to understand and provide guidance on how to responsibly embrace consumerization within enterprises. There are roughly 1.3 million devices on the Microsoft Corporate network and most employees are working with at least two portable devices at any given time. Microsoft CIO and corporate vice president Tony Scott discusses the deeper implications for enterprises in The Consumerization of IT Within Microsoft from the CIO’s Perspective.

Microsoft last month published seven test lab guides that let you to get hands-on experience using a pre-defined and tested methodology that results in a working configuration for the most frequent and relevant consumerization of IT scenarios, including:

  • Base configuration
  • Internet proxy
  • Exchange messaging
  • Data protection
  • Data classification and server isolation
  • Remote desktop services/desktop virtualizationRemote access gateway

Download the Consumerization of IT Test Lab Guides to see how current Microsoft technologies such as Windows Server 2008 R2 can enable the most frequent and relevant Consumerization of IT scenarios.

Microsoft’s Technologies for Enabling Consumerization

Microsoft provides several key technologies for addressing both your users’ needs and the organization’s need to minimize risk. Read Microsoft Technologies for Consumerization for an overview of these technologies, including Windows Optimized Desktop, Windows Cloud Services, Windows App-V and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.

On the management side, Microsoft offers a single centralized tool in Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2012 to manage almost any type of device from a single console view.

Microsoft also provides a cloud service, Windows Intune, for managing Windows PCs and slates with no on-premise infrastructure required. With Windows Intune you can centrally manage and secure PCs through a single web-based console. Check out the Windows Intune Mobile Management Demo to see how you can manage computers from almost anywhere.

A mobile workforce presents its own challenges, including the provisioning and management of cloud-based services for the various devices. On the client side, the upcoming Windows 8, and in particular Windows RT, was designed with consumerization of IT in mind. A recent Building Windows 8 blog post Managing "BYO" PCs in the Enterprise details the new management client designed to communicate with a management infrastructure in the cloud to deliver line-of-business apps to users.

Desktop virtualization and application virtualization can provide the means to enable BYO devices. Desktop virtualization allows the computing environment to be abstracted from the user’s PC, which enables IT pros to separate and centralize user settings, data, applications, and even the operating system from the device their workers are using. Application virtualization enables the applications to be abstracted form the OS and run in isolation, which eliminates the risk of conflict with other applications.

Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) provides enterprise users access to applications that are dynamically available on any authorized PC without application installs.

On the user side, Microsoft also enables a seamless experience their devices of choice.  Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 includes the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) capability, which uses session virtualization and VDI technologies to extend a flexible workspace to your workers, no matter where they work or what device they use.

And Lync Online (part of the Office 365 suite) is cloud-based communication service with presence capabilities, instant messaging, audio/video calling, and rich online meeting experiences.

Embracing the consumerization trend means achieving the right balance among delivering and supporting the devices your users want, delivering the applications in the right format for the device, and maintaining an end-to-end security and management platform. Maintaining the control you need over the new devices entering the corporate environment may mean rethinking the way systems management is done and whether that management infrastructure exists on-premise or in the cloud.

Thanks for reading,


Mitch Irsfeld

Mitch Irsfeld*, Editor of TechNet, is a veteran computer industry journalist and content developer who managed editorial staffs at several leading publications, includingInformationWeek, InternetWeek and CommunicationsWeek. He is also an editor for* TechNet Magazine and managing editor of the TechNet Flash newsletter.