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Grow Your Business Technology

Connected Devices Pose Increasing Challenges for IT Departments

Connected Devices Pose Increasing Challenges for IT Departments
Credit: Asharkyu/Shutterstock

While many businesses believe they are ready for the Internet of Things (IoT) to take hold of the workplace, their IT departments probably feel much differently, new research finds.

Despite the planning that many organizations are doing to prepare for the anticipated explosion in the number of connected devices, there may not be enough network capacity to handle the demand, according to a study from Infoblox, a network control company.

Specifically, more than three-quarters of the businesses surveyed have a sufficient budget and staff in place to handle the increase in connected devices; however, nearly 60 percent said their current network is already at full capacity.

Anticipating what's coming, 90 percent of those surveyed are either planning or already implementing solutions to cope with the increased demands on networking caused by Internet of Things projects, with 54 percent saying network infrastructure management is a high priority for their organization.

Recent research from Gartner revealed that the installed base of "things," excluding PCs, tablets and smartphones, will grow to 26 billion units in 2020, which is almost a 30-fold increase from the 0.9 billion units in 2009.

Cricket Liu, chief infrastructure officer at Infoblox, said it's encouraging that the majority of IT professionals recognize the demands the Internet of Things will make on their networks.

"Network administrators have struggled in recent years to stay on top of the 'bring your own device' trend, and the IoT will create an increase in endpoints that is an order of magnitude greater," Liu said in a statement. "Network automation will become crucial as IT departments confront this massive growth in network complexity."

Network capacity isn't the only concern IT professionals have in confronting the Internet of Things, with more than 60 percent saying it will threaten their network's security.

"With so many objects and IP addresses being added, it's important for network teams to keep track of what's on their network at any given point, and also to bear in mind all these objects and IP addresses are potential weak links in an organization's IT infrastructure," Liu said.

Similarly to what has occurred with the Bring Your Own Device trend, the Internet of Things could make it harder for IT leaders to stay in the loop when devices are added to their networks. In the study, 56 percent of IT managers said it is difficult to control where IoT deployments are occurring across the business, with 45 percent saying they do not get sufficient information from line-of-business teams to manage those deployments.

Despite that, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said their organization has an integrated IoT deployment plan and that IoT deployments can't be authorized without involvement from the IT department.

"IT departments have a seat at the table when business units — such as operations, manufacturing, marketing, sales and customer service — want to move forward with IoT deployments," Liu said. "But these business units often get deep into the buying process before calling IT, sometimes forcing IT to scramble to provide support for devices that lack the full set of connectivity and security protocols found in established categories such as PCs, tablets and smart phones."

To help businesses, Infoblox recommends several steps that network managers can take now to enhance their readiness for the Internet of Things:

  • Work to get IT a seat at the table early in IoT deployment planning, before making buying decisions.
  • Set network access policies for "things" in order to prevent inefficient use of network resources and preserve network security.
  • Assess control and automation systems to make sure the network team isn't overwhelmed by manual tasks as IoT devices come on line.
  • Consider deployment of IPv6, the Internet's next-generation protocol, or expansion of existing IPv6 deployments, to prevent the current global shortage of IPv4 addresses from delaying the introduction of IoT.

The study was based on surveys of 400 IT professionals in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.