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Internet of Things devices could be a roller coaster for desktop admins

The Internet of Things could make work more efficient for users, but admins must consider how IoT devices will affect the resources desktop users need.

Imagine a world where everything produces data; a world where your car can boot up your computer as it enters the office parking garage so it's ready to go when you get to your desk, for example.

Welcome to the world of Internet of Things (IoT). To some people, it may sound spectacular, but if you're a desktop administrator, you know IoT might not be all sunshine and daisies. There are some very real issues you'll have to contend with if you allow IoT devices into your company.

For example, the car that can fire up a computer probably wasn't designed with enterprise security in mind, so it could serve as a backdoor into your network for hackers. The problems don't just come down to security though. With a flurry of new data sources quickly reaching blizzard proportions, IoT brings some serious storage concerns as well.

Despite the problems, Internet of Things devices are ripe for improving business efficiency. Discover how you might have to change your data center infrastructure, what to do to accommodate the mountains of data and how to defend the massive surface area that comes with IoT.

Rethink your infrastructure with IoT

One pixel IoT technology starting to impact product
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The influx of data from Internet of Things devices will push your server, storage and networking hardware to its limits. The traffic coming from desktop users takes precedence, and enabling IoT devices -- if you choose to do so -- could hurt network performance and aggravate desktop users, neither of which is the goal of supporting IoT. To keep everyone happy you'll need a new, more distributed architecture consisting of several mini data centers. This helps aggregate all the data and prevent every data point from being sent back to -- and drowning -- a central data center.

A distributed approach flies in the face of the current trend to centralize apps and security. But IoT demands a new view on traffic patterns and data if you don't want your network to be overwhelmed by all the sources of information.

To keep traffic flowing, your Internet of Things devices should use nondedicated, pre-existing networks. And to make sure none of your data is lost as a result of traffic bottlenecks, each IoT sensor should be programmed to buffer data until the network has the bandwidth to deliver the sensor's information. The sensors should also have a retry function if the network cannot deliver the data immediately, as well as the ability to find a secondary delivery method if a channel is blocked.

IoT pushes storage to its limits

Once  your data center is ready to handle IoT, it's time to figure out how you'll store all the location, orientation and usage information these devices produce, in addition to the storage space desktop users already take up.

One of the benefits of IoT -- or drawbacks depending on your point of view -- is call home support, which keeps your storage vendor in the loop about how you use its product. On the positive side, your vendor can see everything that happens to your storage platform so it can take a more proactive approach to support.

If, your vendor sees you are running out of space, for example, a sales person can contact you pre-emptively to alert you and offer you more storage. The vendor can also compare your storage information with what other companies do to evaluate performance and suggest changes. Finally, call home support gives the vendor insight into how different original equipment manufacturer parts perform.

Some people take issue with call home support because the vendor monitors your every move, which gives it too much insight into what your company does. But you can usually send the information file by file to choose precisely what your vendor sees.

Security in the IoT world

Ultimately, the real story with IoT is security. Everything else -- the storage, the data center change -- is irrelevant if you cannot secure Internet of Things devices.

To make IoT work, you must take a holistic approach to security. That means applying all the security considerations that go into desktops, laptops or smartphones -- such as transport encryption, secure Web interfaces, authorization and software protection -- to forklifts, cars and cows (yes, livestock will likely be part of IoT). Everything is a door into your network with IoT, so the surface area for attacks is large. The sheer number of devices in your network opens you up to a host of malware and distributed denial-of-service attacks. IoT data also tracks people's habits, so hackers can figure out when someone's computer is vulnerable or when a store is most likely to be empty, for example.

There is good news though; you won't have to start your security strategy from scratch. You can use your existing security measures, particularly your BYOD strategy, to lay the framework for IoT security. For example, your existing password, patching and monitoring systems should transfer nicely to IoT. You must make changes to your network segmentation and access control policies and bolster your VPN so remote workers don't run into consistent connection problems as a result of the increase of data from Internet of Things devices.

With all of the IoT considerations it's probably best to evaluate whether or not the data you will get from a particular device will be worth the risk and hassle. If the device can improve efficiency and help workers get their jobs done, it might be worth a try. If not, you might not want to open your company up to the challenges and dangers of IoT.

Next Steps

Slow and steady wins the race to IoT

How early adopters are reacting to IoT

Create apps for IoT

Leap the IoT security hurdle

This was last published in October 2015

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What do you see as the biggest hurdle to IoT enterprise adoption and why?
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For me, it comes down to security. For many IoT applications, the added volume of data alone will make enterprises worried about privacy and fraud detection. 
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Maybe I woke up on the pragmatic side of the bed today, but I'm increasingly puzzled by the questions we're asking. It's not really how IoT devices makes it possible to do work and what steps go into making that happen. I think we should be thanking our stars that people can do work outside of the office and we should praise the tools and infrastructure that have made this possible. Let's not consider how IoT will affect resources but what resources will be needed to make everyone work more efficiently. Yes? Or am I missing something here?
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