The consumerisation of IT

June 3, 2011

By Mike Oliver. The opinions expressed are his own.

Whether the corporate IT world is ready or not, a growing number of employees now use a variety of mobile devices to access and carry corporate data. Powerful smartphones are becoming omnipresent – led by the universally enticing iPhone, while tablets such as the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab and Research in Motion (RIM) Playbook are set to make major inroads this year.

Mobile devices can transform almost any business for the better as increased productivity across the organisation leads to higher revenues and happier employees. And, of course, companies that have high morale find it easier to recruit and retain high-value employees. But it also raises very important questions around security and what IT departments need to do to keep information safe. Securing the entire mobile estate — both corporate and personal devices — will be imperative for businesses in 2011 and beyond.

Mobile devices are an easy target for theft, putting corporate information at risk and organisations therefore need to ramp up security. Departments need to keep a close account of these devices, particularly who is using them and for what purposes. A mobile governance policy can be used to codify rules and regulations, such as how often users must change their passwords and the software that needs to be installed on each device. This provides the framework to secure both network traffic and sensitive internal data.

But governance does nothing to reduce the growing burden on resource-challenged IT departments to administer mobile devices. Fortunately, a proven mobility management platform excels at solving these problems without overtaxing IT resources – even for companies experiencing fast smartphone growth. A comprehensive device management and security solution should be at the heart of any business’ mobility strategy and will have an immediate impact on the operations of a company.

For the past decade, a number of mobile device management solutions have effectively solved the issue of securely managing data and devices so that all data stored and transmitted by mobile devices is secure. Data and content is backed up and can be deleted if a device is lost or stolen. Sensitive data on devices is also encrypted so IT can be confident that sensitive company information is secure outside the office. It also provides the tools to solve complex mobile management tasks simply and effectively.

However, slow take up has always been due to the cost and complexity of these systems. The leading solutions such as (the now defunct Nokia Intellisync, and the nine year market leader Afaria, from Sybase) are solutions built entirely for the mobile enterprise. As such, only organisations with a mobility minded IT resource, and a significant commitment to their deployment, would invest.  Today, the same technology is available as a hosted service, a SaaS monthly subscription, without the often significant cost or complexity.

By the end of 2010, manufacturers introduced more than 60 new smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system alone, as well as a number of new smartphones designed to work on 4G wireless networks. Meanwhile a slew of must-have features are on the way, ranging from mobile payment systems that turn your smartphone into a credit card to location-based services that help co-workers find each other in or out of the office. Clearly companies can expect to find more smartphones in the office well into the future so now is the time to get the right mobile device management solutions in place so valuable corporate information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Mike Oliver is Manager of Mobility Marketing for EMEA Sybase, an SAP company.

Image – Businessmen talking on mobile phones are reflected in a window at a business and shopping complex in Tokyo May 31, 2011. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao.

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