Mobility has become a key part of business operations in recent years. Smartphones and tablets have become an accepted part of everyday business as the workforce becomes more and more dispersed, with managers expecting their employees to remain connected and productive while they are away from the office.
However, rather than being issued a separate device, employees are increasingly using their personal devices for business purposes – opening a big can of worms around what is the appropriate level of security on a personal device used for work.
Basic applications such as email, calendaring and syncing contacts on smartphones or mobile access to CRM and ERP systems are just the beginning. Before long, companies will be deploying and utilising next-generation apps with consumer-like functionality – such as using GPS, the camera and social networks. For example, a marketing manager may snap a photo of a competitor’s billboard and tag it in a database for market research, or use social networks during a meeting to access information for reference or demonstration.
The real challenge for businesses is how to balance this revolution in technology and ways of working with the need to maintain organisational security. IT departments may want to disable camera functions on smartphones to protect data, or ensure that any data on an employee’s phone is encrypted, but users are unlikely to accept such major limitations on their personal devices.
Mobile Enterprise Challenge
In the past, most IT departments have tried to manage the increased complexity of mobile devices by limiting the number of platforms supported, such as only allowing a BlackBerry as a smartphone, or Windows laptops for computing. However, this approach is no longer particularly practical as the influx of consumer devices into the workplace continues to rise. Trying to force such a policy onto employees would likely result in poor adoption of the service.
So what is a business to do? All in all, the mobile enterprise needs the same support as offered to standard PCs. As mobile devices have become progressively more complex, they have the same issues as PCs, such as data security, data management and application support. Plus, with companies embracing more than just one mobile platform, the IT department will need to invest in tools that can manage devices powered by different operating systems. Typical mobile device issues that will need to be secured and managed include assets and settings, passwords, connectivity control and software deployments and updates.
Obviously, the biggest potential management headache for IT departments is security. Considering the average smartphone has 8GBs of memory, employees have enough potential to put a serious amount of corporate data at risk through a compromised device, or by losing it altogether.
Designing an appropriate security policy is crucial for mobile application deployment as it gives enterprises the platform and confidence to do so much more with their mobile strategy. There are three cornerstones of security that need to be covered when developing a mobile device strategy:
- Confidentiality: ensure that data is not shown to the wrong people
- Integrity: ensure that it is not possible to make unauthorised changes to either data or the system
- Availability: ensure that the data is available at all times for authorised users.
Security tools also need to be able to support a range of activity such as patch management, keeping applications secure with no vulnerabilities, protecting against malicious code and blocking unauthorised device access to corporate resources. In addition, they also need to give the enterprise the ability to remotely lock or wipe devices and enforce the encryption of confidential data.
Taking the time to develop an appropriate mobility strategy is vital for enterprises. With the right protocols and security in place, employers and employees alike can reap the benefits of increased flexibility and efficiency.