Mobility and the Enterprise: 3 Ways to Prevent Meltdown

By Andy McLoughlin , written on March 29, 2012

From The News Desk

It was in 2007, when Apple released the first iPhone, that BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) became a mainstream tech buzzword. BYOD loosely describes the potential panic businesses can experience when personal devices infiltrate their IT infrastructure.

In 2010 and 2011, when enterprise workers (even CEOs!) were taking to newfangled iPads and other tablets like app-hungry bees to magical honey, CIOs and IT departments worked tirelessly to prevent what more and more workers kept finding ways to do: circumvent their securely constructed system in order to use their unapproved personal devices for work.

And when Apple released the new “resolutionary iPad” in February and triumphantly announced that it had sold more iOS devices than any laptop manufacturer sold laptops, it became abundantly clear to everyone that mobile devices are here to stay — and they’re accessing the enterprise network and its wealth of data.

But from the very beginning, when it came to BYOD, the toothpaste was already out of the tube. Rather than try to prevent business use of personal devices, businesses need to focus on how to manage enterprise mobility securely and effectively — while liberating workers from a complicated and rigid system.

Fortunately, when it comes to adopting a mobile strategy, there are keys to success that ensure a harmonious mobile device deployment and lead to a smiling CIO, a stress-free IT department, and empowered mobile workers. Be sure to consider the following when choosing solutions:

Flexibility and Interoperability

Very few businesses can scrap their entire IT infrastructure for a new one that embraces mobility. And they shouldn’t have to. We live in a world where APIs rule by serving as a bridge between ultra-flexible cloud applications and on-premise legacy systems.

Enterprise software, like consumer software should be plug-and-play and shouldn’t require days of installation, training, and set-up to get running. It should work with user workflows, not against them, and that includes playing nice with other business software — the software you already have deployed and the software that workers are accustomed to, like Microsoft Active Directory, Microsoft Office, Salesforce, etc. Cloud-based software solutions often excel at interoperability across platforms and existing infrastructure.

Ultra-Mega-Super Security

Ensuring security is often the most important consideration among CIOs when they make purchasing decisions. It’s important for workers to get access to their work documents, which typically involves accessing the corporate network via VPN, without compromising the data in the network to misuse, improper sharing, accidental loss or theft.

Look for enterprise-grade solutions that offer 256-bit security to and from devices — this ensures that data isn’t intercepted in transmission. Consider applications that allow remote wiping of data (but not the whole device; after all, it is the worker’s device and they are likely to have lots of their own data on it.)

File sharing and storage software should allow CIOs and IT departments control over permissions and access and also offer complete visibility into who has interacted with files, how, when and where; audit trails offer an incredibly useful and important layer of oversight. Avoid consumer solutions that serve as a shared drive in the cloud.

James Matthews, Huddle’s head of enterprise technology recently began a 4-part blog series for CIOs and IT admins called "Huddle’s Guide to Sensibly Securing the Cloud," which goes in-depth on cloud security.

Constant Reliability and Access

It’s important that infrastructures, mobile or not, are consistently reliable and accessible. Internal networks and infrastructures, including legacy systems like SharePoint can be notorious for outages that leave everyone in the dark. Among the cloud’s many benefits is its ability to leverage economies of scale to provide a multi-million dollar, ultra-reliable infrastructure at a tiny fraction of the cost.

Look for solutions that offer guaranteed uptime and consider “the nines”— the percentage distance between guaranteed uptime and 100% uptime (which is, at least in theory, impossible). Generally the more nines the better: 99.9%, 99.99%, 99.999% and so on, but consider what the business impact of the relative minutes of downtime a week and/or month will be. For example, 99.9% uptime equates to 10.1 minutes downtime a week, 99.99% is 1.01 minutes a week and 99.999% is 6.05 seconds of downtime per week.

Typically, with each added “nine” comes additional cost to ensure uptime. For many businesses that don’t operate in real-time (e.g., financial institutions, e-retailers, etc.), the operational difference between one minute of downtime and six seconds of downtime per week is minimal whereas the cost difference might be extraordinary.

[Image Credit: Roo Reynolds on Flickr]