How should IT manage connected devices?

As IT teams become tasked to manage connected devices more often, what steps need to be taken to avoid performance and security-related problems?

Businesses today are operating in a truly connected world. Looking to leverage the power of the internet, more businesses are linking nontraditional IT devices -- including cameras, HVAC systems, medical equipment, remote sensors, vehicles and more -- to their network infrastructure.

Expectations are this trend will only continue, with Bain predicting that, by 2020, annual revenues from hardware and software for the anticipated billions of connected devices will top $470 billion. 

IT's responsibility to manage connected devices

The responsibility of managing connected devices and keeping them online and secure without disrupting the performance and availability of traditional network-connected devices often falls to the IT organization. Unfortunately, in too many cases, the devices are inherently less secure than traditional IT gear, making them an immediate point of vulnerability and increasing the importance to efficiently manage connected devices.

This makes it critical for IT to first understand what devices need to be connected directly to the corporate network. Businesses should contemplate the option of building out a separate network, if possible, to maintain the stability and security of all their resources. If this is not an option, organizations need to proceed carefully. 

Setting up policies to manage connected devices

A holistic, multilayered approach to security is essential where all endpoints are managed as part of the entire enterprise. Consider the most basic elements that can be addressed simply: Are the new connected devices configured with a default password that can be easily hacked? If so, change those. 

Is your firmware up to date? If not, take care of that immediately. And make sure you have an effective system for issuing patches that includes all connected devices. 

It is absolutely essential that organizations stay on top of what devices are running on their networks and whether they are in compliance with policy.

Establish a policy for BYOD that includes the latest devices, including wearables. If there is a practical use case for these in the corporate environment, consider consigning them to a guest network instead of the primary enterprise.

It is absolutely essential that organizations stay on top of what devices are running on their networks and whether they are in compliance with policy. This means having the tools to continuously monitor all activity on the network. IT also needs to have an understanding of what special issues new connected devices might introduce with respect to administration and security. Can the device be easily patched? Will it work with existing security protocols? If not, what alternative method can be used to protect the device and other connected resources?

What is clear is with the expected explosion in the number of connected devices, businesses need a plan going forward to manage connected devices properly. Without one, it is not an exaggeration to say the enterprise is putting all its assets at risk. 

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