When students at the University of Georgia returned from winter break five years ago, they inundated the campus computer network with a wave of electronic holiday gifts--smart phones, laptops, tablets, gaming consoles and mini-computers. Within a matter of days, the students had overloaded the computer system and shut it down.
The information technology department quickly came up with what would become the university's bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. Electronic devices were diverted onto one of two networks: computers owned by the university were connected to the campus Ethernet, while other devices were rerouted onto the wireless system. Campus computers, which had slowed to a crawl, started operating at full speed once again.
"The people doing the day-to-day work became the wired users so they would not be affected by the people going onto the latest cute cat video on YouTube," says Diana Williams, senior system administrator for the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and a member of the central university's IT policy group. The latter "brought our network down," she says.
Controlling bandwidth is just one reason why colleges and universities have adopted BYOD policies. Improving computer security, providing reliable internet access for classroom work, and simply letting faculty, staff and students use their favorite devices have driven wider acceptance of BYOD strategies.
"In today's world, I don't think you can run from the proliferation of mobile devices," says David Hotchkiss, chief information officer and vice president of the Medical College of Wisconsin. "I think we are more efficient and we gain better relationships and trust by allowing these devices to come in than if we say, 'No, we're going to block them.'"
To accommodate the growing use of mobile devices, at least 42 percent of colleges and universities had a BYOD strategy in place in 2014, yet many BYOD issues are not heavily regulated by policies, according to the annual Core Data Service survey conducted by Educause. The BYOD phenomenon sprang to life after the 2007 release of the iPhone, and it is taking some institutions several years of planning before campus stakeholders can agree on a policy.
"Since we're only going to see more and better technology come out, the BYOD phenomenon isn't going away," says Eden Dahlstrom, director of research at Educause. "Accommodating personal computing environments is becoming integrated into the structure of everything that colleges...