Guest blog: BYOD? We’ve been doing it for years

10th February 2014 Posted in cloud hosting

The University of St Andrews has been widely recognised in the Scottish IT Industry for their transformational approach to IT systems and communications. Here, Pauline Brown, Business Relationship Manager for IT Services at the University highlights some key considerations, such as security and infrastructure, for supporting ‘bring your own device’.

“In recent years organisations have been scratching their heads with BYOD. However, in the higher education sector we’ve been supporting this for years (at least 10!).

What does BYOD look like at St Andrews

We might be a 600 year old University – but we embrace BYOD. It supports news ways of teaching, learning and working; it provides flexibility and mobility and stimulates innovation and creativity – letting us work in a completely different way. We also provide connectivity for University visitors so they can embrace BYOD also.

We have over 8000 students studying at the University of St Andrews – and they come from all over the world. Typically, students will bring 2 or 3 devices with them to University – but many will bring more. The main devices we see are smartphones, laptops, tablets, games consoles and eBook readers. We don’t limit the amount of connections a student can make.

There are over 2200 staff at the University of St Andrews. All have university-owned equipment, but many staff bring and use their own equipment during their working day (usually a smart phone and tablet). All need connected to the network.

We also have thousands of University visitors throughout the year – who want to get online. Hundreds of parents of potential students arrive at St Andrews every Wednesday to find out what St Andrews has to offer. Every summer, thousands of conference delegates and holidaymakers stay in our Halls of Residence.

How we deliver BYOD

BYOD is not a nice to have anymore – it’s essential and it’s an expectation. But we can’t compromise on security.

Firstly, we need to have the infrastructure to support this. We currently have 4 x 10GB links to the internet; over 1250 wireless access points across the 148 university buildings – and crucially, a state-of-the-art, award winning data centre – underpinning all of our services. For the end-user, the experience to be good and we need to need to constantly invest in streaming media, social media, productivity apps and focus on providing web enabled applications.

It has to be easy to connect. Registration of devices needs to be easy but secure. We utilise MAC address registration and certificates to ensure devices can be tracked to an individual.

For our University visitors, we have partnered with BT, to provide public wifi with a separate WAN. This means for those who can’t access our educational network, eduroam, they can connect to BT wifi.

It’s vital that we have support in place – that is, our Service Desk team suitably skilled and ready and willing to help staff and students get connected. We also have a PC Clinic which offers support and repairs for personal computing equipment. We also promote and provide security software. For me, this is the most crucial aspect. It’s all very well to invest in the technology and have the resilience in place – but if we don’t provide the best support and advice to those bringing their own devices, we’re wasting our time as the service will be sub-optimal.

Every September around 2500 new students arrive in St Andrews. Getting connected to the network is a high priority for them! We also contact the new students before they arrive so they know what services we provide – and where we are if they need us. During ‘arrivals weekend’ we take our support out to where it’s needed – and for extended periods too (e.g. 9am-9pm). We want our students to have the very best impression of IT Services from the very beginning of their time in St Andrews. That means we’ll do all we can to support the plethora of devices we encounter.

We hope that staff and students will embrace technology which will stimulate innovation and creativity – and we want to help them do that. We don’t want them to be presented with barriers. We balance this by maintaining a secure computing environment for all.”

Pauline Brown, Business Relationship Manager, IT Services, University of St Andrews

Follow St Andrews University IT services @STAITServices and Pauline @paulineraebrown