The working world has come a long way from the days when the typical worker used—at most—a landline phone, a desktop computer, and the office printer. If you carried out an IT environment assessment today, you’d likely find most staff working and using at least three different devices in the course of their workday—not always on the premises either.
As the labour market becomes more flexible and organisations are further impacted by the digital revolution, the challenge of managing a large and complex device fleet will only grow larger. IT staff must be able to identify the many devices—smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, printers, etc.—constituting their business’s IT environment, and then secure and manage each and every one of them.
While this task may sound daunting, you can start small by conducting an IT environment assessment. This will help you and your team identify your device loadout and begin the process of standardising hardware and software across your device fleet. At a minimum, this will provide the payoffs of increased visibility and reduced complexity.
Why is it important to standardise IT infrastructure?
Staying on top of cybersecurity is difficult in the most favourable of conditions. In a perfect world, your IT environment would have consistency with brands, software, hardware, operating systems, and generations, which makes sense for security, operational efficiency, and even financial reasons. In reality, your device loadout is likely rife with inconsistency, especially if you allow employees to use their own devices for work purposes.
Standardisation across your device fleet would help your IT staff immeasurably (think: spending less time on individual device management and more time on strategic IT initiatives), but to get to that point, you’ll need to enforce a rigorous policy of centralisation (i.e., having the IT department—rather than individual managers or business departments—decide what devices are purchased and how staff are allowed to use them).
If stakeholders baulk at the time, cost, and inconvenience required to conduct an IT environment assessment and then standardise IT infrastructure, you might want to paint a picture of how common cybersecurity breaches are and how expensive they can be in today’s world, especially in the era of GDPR.
Find the solution right for your business
Standardised IT environments are more common in large corporations. These businesses are more likely to have bulk-buying deals in place with specific tech companies, and they also have a lot invested in making sure the thousands of staff scattered around the globe can share information with one another without running into software incompatibility issues. However, IT staff at small and midsize businesses may also contend with chaotic device environments—and they have the added challenge of less access to resources to help them manage it.
To overcome this obstacle, you may want to outsource your IT environment assessment and standardisation process. Companies like HP can analyse certain aspects of your organisation’s device environment and identify how it fits into the way your organisation operates. What’s more, their experts can run workshops with staff to explain the need to align on standard devices, configurations, and locations, as well as optimise your device security settings and draw up a comprehensive, tailored plan outlining steps to ensure standards and policies are followed.
Don’t forget your printers
Often, it can be the low-profile devices, such as the printer sitting quietly in the corner, that cybercriminals target, hoping you’ve overlooked them in your larger security plan. If you’re short on time or don’t know where to start when it comes to securing your print environment, you may want to take advantage of managed print services (MPS), which can also streamline workflows, eliminate waste, and identify ways to reduce printing costs.
MPS can help you optimise, manage, and improve business printing and document management, as well as ensure printer security—often an enterprise network’s weakest link when overlooked. When standardising your printers with the help of MPS experts, you should embrace printers that come with industry-leading security features, like run-time intrusion detection and whitelisting. By doing so, you’ll create a standardised—and more secure—fleet of printers, which translates to one less aspect of your IT environment you need to worry about.
If you’re standardising beyond your print fleet, you may want to seek out a Device as a Service (DaaS) vendor for assistance. DaaS solutions allow you to pay one fee per device, which covers everything from planning, configuration, and deployment to analytics, support, maintenance, and even disposal. The best DaaS solutions encompass a variety of products and offer real-time analytics, so vet carefully and strategically. With a DaaS partner tackling most of the work for you, you can minimise your time spent assessing and maintaining your IT environment.
Tame the BYOD beast
What happens when someone has the right make and model smartphone, but that device gets lost, stolen, infected, or connected to unsecured Wi-Fi?
Standardisation isn’t a magic bullet that can lay waste to each and every threat. You need to be aware of the other tools you can add to your armoury. HP, for example, provides a BYOD solution—one that uses device posture assessment and control, extensive usage and performance reporting, powerful WLAN connectivity, and close-up analysis of user behaviour to eliminate or reduce the security headaches that arise through the use of employee-owned devices.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to standardisation that will be perfect for every organisation, but regardless of which method you choose, standardisation is sure to produce results. Once you’ve committed to standardising your IT infrastructure, here’s what you should aim for:
- The same hardware is used across the business, instead of a mix of PCs
- One operating system is in use, rather than different systems across different generations
- All equipment is standardised, including servers, scanners, copiers, and printers
- All applications are standardised, including business management software, file sharing services, password managers, and email
- Standard security policies are in use, such as two-factor authentication
If you can check off all of the above, you can rest a little easier—but your job is never done, especially in today’s cybersecurity climate. The ultimate goal in standardising is to free up your time, as well as your staff’s time, so you can focus on more proactive efforts, like putting the proper defences in place to protect your precious IT environment. Get started today, so you’re not left behind tomorrow.