With new devices come new challenges

Opinion by Dan Raywood

As the UK returns to work, so the pressure on IT managers increases as Christmas presents are attached to the network.

As the UK returns to work, so the pressure on IT managers increases as Christmas presents are attached to the network.

According to a survey by cloud services provider Star, the influx of smartphones and tablets will provide another unwelcome addition to the ‘to do' list of many mid-market IT professionals.

It found that the most popular devices expected to appear at work in January were: the Apple iPhone (69 per cent); Apple iPad (64 per cent); BlackBerry (38 per cent); Android Phone/Tablet (29 and 21 per cent respectively); and Microsoft's Windows Phone/Tablet (17 and ten per cent respectively).

It also claimed that BlackBerrys are easiest for IT to integrate, while Android devices are the hardest; 54 per cent of IT experts allowed the use of BlackBerrys in the workplace, while just 24 per cent welcomed Android phones.

Star claimed that without a way to cope with user demand for a better IT experience, dissatisfaction will rise and cause yet more tension in the workplace.

A similar survey by mobile device management vendor Zenprise revealed that 20 million new devices were activated over the festive period, with almost seven million first connected on Christmas Day.

It recommended IT managers discover rogue devices, define and communicate the company mobile strategy, including which users and devices will be supported, and which applications will be mobilised, and get all mobile devices under a management platform.

Ahmed Datoo, CMO at Zenprise, said: “The ability to do more work on a mobile device, whether it is a smartphone or tablet, is a great benefit for both employees and companies. Using one mobile device for both work and personal business can open the door for great productivity improvements if the device is appropriately managed and secured.”

I spoke with Michael Everall, CISO at Lehman Brothers Holdings, who said the main problem with consumerisation is with remote access to the company's digital landscape and access to its email – two separate and distinct aspects.

He said: “There is a distinct pressure from the user base and not just IT to connect their personal device to the company systems, particularly but not exclusively for email. This can be because of reasons as varied as not wanting to carry two devices, the company device not being perceived as user-friendly, the pressure for cost reduction from the bean counters, or the perceived ‘cool' factor.”

He called the BlackBerry architecture the most inherently secure platform for email as it has been designed from its inception to be an integrated, secured (and generally secure) method of email delivery. However, this is not desirable among users, while Apple has strong platform conformity and ease of support due to a monolithic platform, and Android can, with some work and third-party applications, be at least as secure as the iPhone if not more, although variance in the platform can be a problem.

“Initially the answer from inside the perimeter was a simple ‘no' and this was both enforced and enforceable and, without senior management to drive a change, that was it. Then the CFO, the COO and the CEO started to get these new-fangled devices and the pressure started to come from the top of the tree to do something,” he said.

“Initially the push was to use IMAP or POP3 on the mail servers, but this has serious security issues, particularly as policies and controls could not be enforced on the endpoint device.

“This was when Microsoft started to actively push its use of ActiveSync on the Exchange email platform and companies like Good Technology started providing software that would integrate with the corporate email to provide BlackBerry-like functionality across a range of handheld devices and platforms. With both of these platforms, policies can be pushed to the endpoint, controls maintained and it was still within the purview and control of IT to enable or deny users as required.

“The problem now is that the demand has reached a crescendo and the tools to attach to the mail environment are pervasive and close to user proof in the two main players, iPhone and Android.”

I caught up with Andy Jacques, EMEA general manager at Good Technology, to gauge his thoughts on the year ahead, and what has passed. He said that a bring your own device (BYOD) policy "solves the problem that is going on inside organisations" and presents an "elegant" solution with a separate environment.

He said the challenge is not about managing mobile devices, but managing mobile data, particularly when that data combines personal and corporate and comes from the same place. He said: “We have moved from the challenge of managing the endpoint to data security. “The challenge is that data is mingled and you need to keep it separate.”

Jacques said the company had experienced huge growth in 2011, with a surge in the purchase of licences in Q4 on the expectation of take-up in the New Year.

I asked him if people were aware of BYOD as a concept, but not of how to enable a switchover. He predicted that there will be a move towards BYOD as a policy.

“In 2012 this will accelerate, but I believe there will be a security leak because of mobile and this will cause a debate on how data and the device is treated,” he said.

“At the moment, if you lose a laptop, it is company-owned. This is about bringing in your own phone with very little due diligence done and no support of content or applications.”

Whatever experience you are having managing this influx of new devices, there was plenty of warning, and with the 'consumerisation of IT' set to dominate proceedings throughout 2012 as it did in 2011, the solutions will be as prevalent as the challenges.


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