Assess devices, users to get started on a mobility program

The need for a mobility program may be apparent, and BYOD is a necessary step in the progress from centralized control to focusing on apps and data.

While IT administrators have managed user identities, endpoint devices, applications and data for years, mobile technology has brought dramatic growth in their scope and corresponding challenges. Businesses are learning to balance their desire for centralized control with user flexibility. Bring your own device programs are one way to manage competing interests, but other methods are emerging to strengthen any mobility program.

Device management may have been easier in the days of enterprise-owned desktops and servers. As mobile devices emerged, many organizations followed a centralized control model exemplified by BlackBerry devices. A monolithic mobility infrastructure locked down endpoints. That changed when employees and business partners started using personal devices for work.

Nowadays, enterprises must balance employee preferences for how devices are used with protection of corporate data and systems. A broad range of vendors now tries to serve that need, including device designers, enterprise software vendors and specialized mobile management software companies.

Not surprisingly, early mobility program attempts satisfied neither users nor IT shops. Users lost favorite features when IT admins insisted on hardened apps before trusting valuable or sensitive data to employee-owned laptops, smartphones or tablets.

Equally frustrating to enterprises, admins didn't have the granular security controls they wanted. Nobody wants to remotely wipe personal information from a lost or stolen phone, but the risk of not wiping it and having the data leak isn't acceptable either. Clearly, everyone involved wanted a better way to isolate personal from business functions in some mobile device strategy.

BYOD's day arrives, but not without obstacles

Fortunately, the long road to improving the end-user experience as well as increasing the precision of security controls is well under way with bring your own desktop (BYOD).

In addition, the rise of software as a service (SaaS), particularly storage and collaboration services, is a new front in the struggle. In fact, advances in cloud adoption may further improve the mobile user experience while at the same time adding more complexity to the overall management challenge.

BYOD policies are part of a steady progression from managing devices to managing apps and data, including sharing among apps. Mobile applications are now a well-established part of IT ecosystems that include on-premises, cloud and mobile infrastructures.

A common issue facing those managing cloud and mobile deployments is that enterprise data and programs are running on devices that centralized IT does not control, at least not completely.

Employees must now share the responsibility for managing devices, and cloud providers are sharing the responsibility for data security. In spite of these shifts, if there were a data breach through an employee-owned mobile device or through a cloud storage service, then the IT department would still be the first to be held accountable.

Many mobility programs assume that, regardless of where enterprise data exists -- in corporate data centers, on employee tablets or in the cloud -- IT professionals will be held responsible for the confidentiality, integrity and availability of valued data.

In upcoming installments, we'll take a closer look at mobility management terms and technologies. We'll also examine growing challenges for BYOD policies and consider aspects of mobile device and application lifecycle management.

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