As mobile devices grow more powerful, functional, affordable and ubiquitous, there is little question that they will soon be standard issue at most forward-thinking companies with mobile workforces. However, while multiple surveys have found that IT executives rank enterprise mobility among their top initiatives, questions related to security are delaying mobile deployments at approximately 60% of businesses, according to a recent survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“That means 60% of businesses are denying themselves the competitive advantages early adopters have already begun to realise,” says Julie Tomlinson, Sybase SA’s director of mobile business, that is focused on delivering end-to-end enterprise mobile solutions. “Early adopters understand the potential of enterprise mobility to improve employee productivity, customer service, operational efficiency and revenue generation.”
She says that while executives and IT management know mobile computing is gaining momentum and are beginning to recognise that it is in their best interest to find a way to manage a rapidly expanding enterprise in which the network and corporate data are wherever their employees are, their apprehension is rooted in not knowing exactly how to do that.
“They are not trying to delay the inevitable, but they do have legitimate concerns about how they can manage and secure hundreds or thousands of devices with access to back-end systems as rigorously as the rest of their enterprise assets,” she adds.
When one broaches the conversation with these managers
Tomlinson says you can count on being asked a long list of questions including:
* 'How do I distribute software and updates to all of these devices?'
* 'How do I back up the devices?'
* 'How do I restore a device if data is lost?'
* 'How do I 'kill' a device if it is lost or stolen?'
* 'How do I protect data as it travels across various networks?'
* 'How do I ensure device configurations are not changed by users?'
* 'How do I even know if the device is out there?'
These sorts of questions – particularly questions related to security are delaying mobile deployments and making business decisions based on what you do not know is clearly not a good thing. However, what are these businesses to do?
Tomlinson highlights several important considerations for organisations as they develop their mobile strategy:
* Mobility should be approached as an integral part of the overall IT strategy – and every new IT initiative should include a mobility component, otherwise, you will find yourself in retrofitting mode once the initiative is already up and running.
* Organisations should not treat their mobile devices differently than their desktops – the same infrastructure, the same integrated framework used to manage the hundreds or thousands of desktops across the enterprise can be extended to achieve the same management control and functionality they already have for desktop machines. Again, treat mobile devices as part of the larger enterprise, not as a separate initiative with separate policies and solutions.
* Choosing a leading mobile technology provider focused on the enterprise is essential – before choosing a mobile enterprise vendor, organisations need to examine a company's ability to prove scalability, reliability, 24/7 support, global reach, and education and training.
* Be aware of the challenges of deploying multiple point solutions.
* Choose a flexible platform because your solution must interact with existing systems and heterogeneous hardware. Look for a proven enterprise vendor with experience in mobility that enables you to manage and secure your mobile assets in the same way you manage your other enterprise assets.
Think in terms of an infrastructure that is extensible beyond your immediate needs that provides systems management, software and inventory management, connection management (for a variety of connection types), data management, device management (for multiple device types) and, of course, multilayer security. The goal is to create an infrastructure that can manage a wide variety of applications and can easily interoperate to meet your unique data requirements.
Tomlinson concludes by saying that IT professionals increasingly realise that a comprehensive, integrated framework better services their interests.
"Rather than dedicating specific IT staff to manage mobile deployments, forward-thinking organisations are employing staff who understand mobility and how to connect mobile devices and users to the larger IT infrastructure via standard interfaces, while applying enterprise-wide strategies and policies."