The Internet of Things (IoT) hype focuses on how Internet-connected cars, homes, offices, appliances and gadgets will transform how we work, play and live. Sensors in water bottles, Internet-enabled tennis rackets and every kind of conceivable wearable will capture the spotlight.

With these new possibilities, the IoT will create IT resource churn as companies struggle to securely connect a deluge of devices, sensors and objects to the corporate network. According to the IDC, there will be more than 212 billion devices connected to the web by 2020, including more than 30 billion connected autonomous things.

It’s important to understand that simply connecting only three to four devices per employee along with standard office equipment, such as printers, copiers, faxes and scanners, will have a profound effect on organizations and the IT people who support them. IT departments will be on the frontlines of the IoT assault, especially when it comes to configuring, managing and updating all the devices that need to communicate and interact.

Since the best defense is a strong offense, IT should embrace the following top five best practices to help best prepare:

1. Blend Traditional Systems and Mobile Management

As more endpoints enter the workplace, there will be increased interdependencies that will create complexities and challenges for IT. Recognize that smartphones and tablets have the same needs as laptops and desktops in terms of passwords, profiles, patches and updates.

When everything is connected to the Internet, the need to stay current with software patches and hardware upgrades will intensify. As a result, we’ll soon see a convergence of mobile device and traditional systems management as companies seek solutions to integrate how to discover, deploy and maintain corporate- and employee-owned smartphones, tablets, cloud clients, laptops and desktops.

2. Turn Data Into Business Knowledge

Companies will need to get more rigorous about collecting high-level usage data on devices. While IT may think they have a fairly accurate picture of their environment, it’s conceivable that hundreds or possibly thousands of new devices could show up on the network seemingly overnight. This is especially true in environments where virtual machines are spun up without IT involvement.

Fine-grained management of all those endpoints typically requires separate, custom tools, which can lead to undue management overhead. That’s why it’s important to understand what level of information is needed most, so it can be aggregated and collapsed into knowledge that fits the specific needs of the business.

3. Unify Systems Management for Heightened Compliance

Companies will need to be much more diligent in paying attention to software licenses in an IoT world as finding you’re out of compliance during a software audit can be extremely costly and time-consuming. To avoid drowning in a sea of IoT data while easing usage and compliance reporting, companies should look for ways to consolidate and centralize systems management reporting.

4. Elevate Security While Giving Users Access to the Right Things

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to security. IT managers must keep abreast of the latest security policies and devise plans for segregating parts of the network and environment to protect vital business systems without impacting workforce productivity or operational efficiency.

Learning Opportunities

Mobile security will continue to rise in importance as companies strive to achieve the lowest risk exposure. As part of a best practices approach, companies need to strike the right balance between managing users and all their devices. For some organizations, secure mobile enablement will include container-based digital workspaces that separate access to corporate and personal data on BYO devices. Still others will add user-centric identity and access management for additional management flexibility and protection.

5. Understand Not All IoT ‘Things’ are Created Equal

As devices of all kinds become prevalent in our everyday lives, they become exposed to countless opportunities to be dropped, drenched or destroyed accidentally. As failure modes become more diverse and price points for devices become more attractive, companies and their employees likely will replace or upgrade smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops with greater frequency. This means it will be necessary to adjust corporate break/fix and replacement strategies accordingly. If a mobile device is covered under warranty or the system isn’t mission critical, then probably it will make more sense to replace it than devote precious IT resources to troubleshooting and fixing the problem.

Preparing for IoT

The best way to prepare for IoT is to start with a review of how endpoints are currently managed. Having broad device support across Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, iOS and Android platforms is a good starting point. The ability to discern gaps in coverage is essential as printers, monitors, network routers, scanners and other connected devices play increasingly critical roles in an IoT world.

Equally important is determining the depth of device data you can attain. Are you collecting enough data to make business decisions? If you gather stats on 15 devices but don’t know which versions or firmware they’re running, you don’t have sufficient insight. It’s critical to dig deep for the right details while factoring how often you need a sanity check on endpoint health and wellbeing.

Retailers may require real time or hourly assessments, whereas environments with less rigorous security and compliance demands may find that weekly reporting is adequate. Regardless, there are always tradeoffs when determining the breadth, depth and speed of your endpoint data.

IT managers should look for opportunities to aggregate and consolidate endpoint systems management because managing disparate, point solutions is only going to get harder as the number of connected devices mushrooms. IT managers must continue to seek flexible ways to deploy and scale endpoint systems management as the brave new world of IoT will require embracing best practices and deploying best-of-class solutions to meet evolving user needs while driving maximum business value.