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Mobile device influx highlights need for enterprise mobility strategy

Administrators face an influx of new mobile devices in 2013. MDM tools, mobile policy and other techniques can help support enterprise mobility.

IT departments face an influx of new employee mobile devices at the outset of 2013, and while it may be a nuisance, the best approach is to support them as part of an enterprise mobility strategy.

Once organizations accept that the mobile trend is here to stay and begin to plan for it, new devices won't be a problem, industry watchers said.

"We can all get our head out of the sand and stop pretending otherwise," said Shlomo Kramer, CEO of Imperva Inc., a data security company based in Redwood Shores, Calif. "The employee wants to use the tools they are used to on the devices they want to and IT departments need to stop blocking these wonderful applications and devices."

The numbers back up the anecdotal evidence that more mobile devices than ever before are being rapidly adopted both at home and at work. IDC estimated that 362 million tablets were shipped during the 2012 holiday season, up from 63 million during the same period in 2011, and Forrester predicted that tablets will become the primary personal computing device in 2013 for people at home.

Consequently, 37% of IT pros said they will support personal tablets in 2013 -- up from 34% last year and 18% in 2010, according to the 2013 TechTarget IT Priority Survey. Also, 54% of respondents said the ultimate goal for enterprise mobility is to accommodate end-user demand to integrate a personal device to the corporate network.

Mobile device management starts with IT control

There are a number of ways IT can prepare for employee-owned devices, including good mobile device planning and policies, mobile device management (MDM) tools and more.

First, they have to control the data on these devices from the get-go, Kramer said.

"That's priority number one," he said. "Last year was all about managing the device, and by the end of the year, the conversation shifted to securing the data, applications, and access to the infrastructure."

Imperva does allow personal devices in the organization, despite being in the process of developing a mobile policy and not using a MDM product.

For now, the company relies solely on WatchDox, an enterprise-grade Dropbox alternative, to securely sync data between the organization's on-premises data stores and employee mobile devices.

"Just solving that piece of the puzzle bought us more time to figure everything else out," Kramer said.

Hecla Ltd., a mining company based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, supports personal devices for corporate productivity. It first adopted a secure email product from Good Technologies several years ago, and evolved its mobile efforts into a secured container approach after Android and iOS became popular.

Any employee who wants to connect to the corporate network simply has to download the Good mobile app for their specific device and log in with their credentials.

"To a point, it's really not something I stress about anymore," said Michael Patton, director of IT at Hecla. "We've been doing mobile [since] before BlackBerries existed."

Patton said because of his company's forward-thinking approach to mobile devices, it was in a better position to survive the wave of personal device infiltration at the start of 2012, and won't lose any sleep in 2013.

If an employee leaves the company or if the device is stolen, Patton can simply remote wipe the Good app from the employee's device through an admin console without affecting the personal data on the device.

Other companies haven't had it as easy, but those that recognized what they need to do to support employee-owned devices are well-positioned heading into 2013.

Beyond MDM: Network infrastructure for mobility

Over the last year, Premiere Global Services Inc. (PGi), a virtual collaboration solutions provider based in Atlanta, has laid the foundation to support mobile by upgrading its networking infrastructure, and by adopting Software as a Service (SaaS) applications that also have mobile applications.

At the tail-end of 2012, the organization also rolled out a proof-of-concept program for MobileIron's device and application management suite. In addition, it introduced a mobile policy for personal devices, said Scott Schemmel, vice president of global IT for PGi.

"2012 was all about getting the various pieces in place," Schemmel said. "Ultimately, the coming year is about the productivity gains of embracing mobile technologies and the employee satisfaction gains are too compelling to ignore them."

One practical matter the company didn't anticipate as it began to embrace an influx of mobile devices was the overwhelming need to beef up the entire wireless networking stack.

"We've seen a two-and-a-half times growth of devices hitting the network over the last year and expect it to be even worse in 2013," Schemmel said. "You really can't afford poor network performance to deter your mobile efforts."

While many companies have to invest in additional network infrastructure, there are ways to control tablet bandwidth consumption. IT can create a guest network for personal devices to connect to while employees are in the office, limit the use of bandwidth hogging apps like Skype, or deploy better network monitoring tools to understand where bottlenecks occur.

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