Recently, I moderated a customer-led panel at the EDUCAUSE annual conference, which brought together education IT leaders and technology innovators to discuss how to manage multiple-device, multi-OS environments. Clearly, mobile devices are here—and here to stay, which was evidenced by the fact that approximately 140 conference attendees joined our 8:00 a.m. session.

What they heard was that educators definitely have influence over the devices and tools they choose to get their jobs done, and it’s up to IT to strike the right balance between meeting user expectations and the technology policies of the institution.

For Kim Cary, chief information security officer at Pepperdine University, BYOD is not a new concept. Nor is the ongoing battle with what he calls “drive-by Malware,” downloads that are threats and major resource drains. Kim offered a cautionary tale of how information stealers, extortion-ware and spambots can threaten student data and affect public trust in the educational institution.

He acknowledged that anti-virus is still effective at stopping older threats, but also said it’s not the complete answer. Kim compared it to calling only the infantry when you really need the additional support of the Air Force to combat the problem. That’s why he is taking a proactive stance to manage security profiles and automate system updates to stop the vulnerability—not the attack.

In doing so, Pepperdine has taken away software patching and updates from its user community, many of whom aren’t technical enough to keep their own systems current. Instead, he relies on Dell KACE systems management appliances to automate updates and endpoint systems management. He shared how using KACE enabled Pepperdine to patch 2,900 computers at a rate of about 650 a day, which saved being 12-to-18 months behind on security enhancements if they’d chosen to do this task manually.

Dell KACE systems management appliances also helped Chino Valley Unified School District streamline IT management, while giving staff and students continuous access to learning resources. For Georges Khairallah, network specialist at Chino Valley Unified, the surge of mobile devices brought in by students overburdened the district’s network and taxed internal resources. The need to address emerging Common Core requirements extended to BYOD and major infrastructure changes to support the new standards.

The growth of personal mobile devices outpaced the district’s ability to keep up and Chino Valley ran out of IP addresses in some locations. Additional pressure was felt by the Special Education department, which was an early adopter of BYOD. Because of funding, these trailblazers brought iPads into the environment, creating an immediate need for multiple-device, multi-OS support. To lessen the impact of BYOD, Khairallah shared his plans to add a Network Access Control solution, redesign the district’s network topology to better accommodate BYOD and deploy a mobile device management (MDM) solution to increase control over district-owned mobile devices.

In navigating the impact of BYOD on their campuses, both men offered pragmatic advice, including starting with a high-level view of what you want to accomplish and then relying on proofs-of-concept and soft go-live rollouts to minimize disruptions. John Lane, CEO of Logical Front, a Dell solution provider that specializes in desktop virtualization, reinforced these practical tips.

With 90 percent of Logical Front’s business focused on the education market, John is well versed on how desktop virtualization solutions, including Dell’s vWorkspace, can help both K-12 and higher education customers lower BYOD hurdles. He shared insight on how to identify “real world” use cases as virtualizing a lab environment or library system will have different requirements. He also offered recommendations on sizing VDI projects properly, taking into account storage, bandwidth and IOPS caching

Across the board, the panelists told attendees to test new technologies and prove they work in their specific environment before starting large-scale rollouts. They were unanimous in telling everyone to never skimp on training and always pick a partner that understands both BYOD and the special requirements of the education market.

Based on the enthusiastic response to the session, I believe our panelists struck a chord with others who are in the midst of navigating the impact of BYOD on their campus. I would love to hear what our customers are doing, so drop me a line at Bill_Odell@Dell.com to tell me more about your BYOD plans.