Shaping your content management strategy around mobility

Embracing mobility means updating the way you manage company data. IT should use options such as secure containers and enterprise-grade cloud services.

Content is king -- whether you're a cable operator, a Hollywood mogul or an enterprise IT administrator. Business nowadays revolves around data -- which we collectively refer to as content -- and enterprises should make sure their content management practices reflect the importance of securing mobile data.

As we continue to move into the mobile and cloud eras, many IT departments have yet to define their content strategies. But critical data can reside on a variety of cloud services and mobile devices, which might not be under the direct control of the organization.

Too many organizations use traditional shared-storage mechanisms as the core of their content management strategy. These usually take the form of one or more shared drives with limited per-user security.

The good news is that all major operating systems (OSes) support some form of sharing, and cross-platform sharing involving Windows, Mac OS and Linux is possible in many cases. The bad news is that there's little control here. Authentication is minimal, tracking is often nonexistent and management visibility is usually missing altogether. Data can easily be lost, stolen, maliciously altered or worse, with little recourse -- and often no knowledge -- on the part of the organization.

To avoid such data loss, IT shops need to consider policy, security, availability, integrity and cost when developing a content management strategy. And there are two technologies that have blossomed in recent years to help IT do so: enterprise file sync-and-share (EFSS) and mobile content management (MCM).

EFSS is flush with features

Many users are familiar with cloud-based file storage and sharing services such as Dropbox, and some even use them in business settings. Enterprise file sync-and-share products differ from consumer-grade services and traditional sharing techniques by including features such as Active Directory integration, SharePoint support and more comprehensive security such as two-factor authentication.

Unlike consumer-facing services like Dropbox or Google Drive, EFSS offerings also provide centralized management and administration, Group Policy management and policy-based push synchronization. In addition, they have capabilities for access restrictions, geofencing, data deduplication, rights management, reporting and more.

EFSS is not the same as a cloud-based backup service, but many EFSS offerings can effectively serve in this role. The market for EFSS services is growing, but the top vendors right now are Box, Citrix (ShareFile) and EMC (Syncplicity).

MCM containerizes content

Mobile content management is available as a standalone product or service, but today it is also commonly available as part of an enterprise mobility management system. MCM contains elements of mobile device and application management, as well as related functions for managing expense, identity and overall policy compliance.

Today's mobile-centric world demands more comprehensive, manageable and secure content management strategies.

MCM is most often implemented as a secure container on a mobile device, under the control of a central authority. This container is encrypted, and policies define how users can view information in the container, how permitted applications can use that data, and whether users can copy, print and otherwise consume corporate content.

There is usually significant functional overlap between MCM and EFSS in terms of synchronization, but MCM is most at home in a bring your own device environment. Notable MCM vendors include VMware (AirWatch), MobileIron, Good Technology and even BlackBerry (BES12).

Tips for implementing MCM, EFSS

Most EFSS and MCM products are oriented toward smartphones and tablets, but it's also important to support traditional desktop OSes and offer cross-platform support.

Products and services in both of these approaches sometimes include hundreds of features, but simplicity is a virtue when managing vast amounts of content accessed by diverse user communities. Potential support costs for mobile content management -- which may also include training -- can pile up quickly. So, given the variability in user interfaces, feature sets, user preferences and individual skills, IT departments should take any EFSS or MCM finalists for a spin with real users before making a decision.

It's also a good idea to do a staged rollout to discover any potential problems before they affect the productivity of the entire business. Support headaches can quickly derail a content management strategy, so a little upfront usability and functional verification can go a long way.

Placing content in the cloud

A key decision when deploying an MCM or EFSS product is whether to host the service locally or in the cloud. Many IT managers remain concerned that sensitive data hosted by a third party represents a potential security hole that the client cannot address themselves.

Customers can, in fact, further encrypt their data if they choose, but EFSS and MCM suppliers usually offer security as strong as any commercial on-premises offering. Just make sure your enterprise security policy is up to date before selecting a content management approach. The real advantages of cloud-based services are their minimal impact on IT operations, and the simplified scalability they provide.

Organizations managing mobile content in the cloud need to train key operations and support staffers, and they should carefully explore comprehensive fault tolerance. Still, the conversion of capital expenses into operating expenses is a great advantage of hosted services.

The bottom line: Picking the right content management tool can be a complex task, and the field continues to evolve. While more traditional network shares will continue to play a role in many organizations, today's mobile-centric world demands more comprehensive, manageable and secure content management strategies.

Next Steps

Learn more about MCM in the cloud

A primer on mobile content management

How to choose the right EFSS vendor

What you need for a successful mobile web content management strategy

Dig Deeper on EMM tools | Enterprise mobility management technology