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How mobile cloud computing infrastructure enables modern workers

When it comes to data storage and application development, mobile cloud computing helps IT build a bridge between legacy software and new work styles.

Smartphones and tablets have little value in the workplace if they can't access corporate data and applications. Mobile cloud computing infrastructure makes it easier for IT to provide this access.

Traditional enterprise applications are designed for Windows PCs that store data locally and on network file shares. The most popular mobile devices run Apple iOS and Google Android, which means they're incompatible with Windows applications. They also have much less storage capacity than PCs and can't easily access network drives.

Mobile cloud computing infrastructure acts as a bridge between the old and new ways of doing things. In doing so, it enables workers to be productive from anywhere on any device. Some of the most important cloud technologies for mobile organizations include enterprise file sync and share (EFSS), mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) and desktop and application virtualization.

Enterprise file sync and share

EFSS services let IT control users' sharing privileges and track access to specific files.

EFSS services emerged from the consumer market. Users turned to the public cloud for a place to store files, access them from multiple devices and share them without having to deal with cumbersome email attachments. As more people brought their mobile devices to work, they began storing corporate data in these consumer-grade services with no IT oversight.

EFSS aims to provide that same level of user-friendly functionality along with IT management and security features. Most services offer a mobile app and a web interface through which users can upload files to the cloud, share them with others and open them with compatible productivity applications, such as Microsoft Word. This approach opens up corporate data access to a much wider variety of devices.

Of course, more access means more security concerns. EFSS services let IT control users' sharing privileges and track access to specific files. And some providers offer an on-premises or private cloud version for additional peace of mind.

Mobile backend as a service

EFSS does the trick when a mobile user needs to access a specific file. But other times, a mobile app needs constant access to large amounts of corporate data. Developers and IT professionals can use MBaaS to build this access directly into an app.

Traditionally, it's complex to develop a native mobile app that ties into back-end systems. It requires significant manual coding, and any changes on the back end can break things on the front end. Developers must deal with these issues for each system that an app needs to access, so scalability is a significant problem.

MBaaS aims to simplify the process. It abstracts the back-end infrastructure and presents a singular, unified interface in the cloud. Developers then connect their apps to the MBaaS using APIs and software development kits, and the service handles the connections to the desired infrastructure components.

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Desktop and application virtualization

Virtualization and mobility have a complicated relationship. On one hand, running Windows desktops and applications in a data center and delivering them to mobile devices is a relatively straightforward way to get legacy software on modern endpoints.

On the other hand, Windows is made for a keyboard and mouse, neither of which mobile devices have -- making for a subpar user experience. And don't forget the cost and complexity often associated with VDI.

On that last point, the cloud has emerged as a viable alternative. Desktop as a service lets organizations take advantage of a virtual desktop infrastructure's benefits, while a third-party provider handles the storage and support infrastructure. Similarly, applications as a service lets users access individual virtual apps through the cloud.

The future of mobile cloud computing

There is no one right way to use mobile cloud computing infrastructure to enable workers. Many organizations will rely on a combination of EFSS, native mobile apps, desktop and applications as a service and more.

To accommodate this variety, vendors in the end-user computing market now offer workspace suites -- bundles of technology that provide one place for workers to access all the applications and data they need from any device. Workspaces are still in their early days, and they require a good amount of integration work to live up to their promise. If they succeed, they will truly unlock the power of the mobile cloud.

Unearth the layers of cloud

This article is part of a series that breaks down the different technologies that underpin cloud-based infrastructure. Navigate here to see the other articles.

Next Steps

What does mobile cloud mean?

What's the best cloud approach for mobility?

Do you need MBaaS to develop mobile applications?

This was last published in April 2017

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