Why You Need to Make Mobile Device Management a Priority in 2011

By Pedro Pereira  |  Print this article Print

Mobile devices will dominate the IT conversation in 2012. Are you ready to make the most of this opportunity and build it into a revenue stream?

If you look around the web right about now, you’ll notice a beloved yearly ritual – IT predictions for the coming year. The giddy end-of-year predictions orgy already is in full swing, as countless prognosticators, contemplators and agitators consult their digital crystal balls to make divinations ranging from duh to… huh?

At least half of them will turn out to be wrong, but, hey, who ever looks back? Besides, with the Mayan calendar coming to end about a year from now, who knows if we’ll even get a chance to look back?

Mayan prognostications notwithstanding, I am going to make a single prediction of my own: Mobile devices will dominate the IT conversation in 2012. Shocking, I know, but sometimes I like to play it safe.

For the IT services channel, the steady increase of mobile devices in the workplace, often referred to as BYOD, or "bring your own device," will open plenty of opportunities to make a buck. I expect that managed services providers (MSPs) and remote monitoring and management (RMM) vendors will be pushing mobile device management (MDM) as an important value-added service for end customers.

With a projected 362 million mobile connections in the United States by the end of 2012, according to IE Market Research Corp., MDM is becoming an acute need in companies large and small. And in 2012, if you don’t have a plan for how to manage and secure the tablets and smartphones your users bring to the office, you are flirting with disaster.

It is incumbent on the IT services community, including MSPs and cloud service providers, to guide their clients away from potential disastrous situations by developing and implementing MDM policies and technology.

In a survey of 100 IT professionals, enterprise communications solutions vendor Enterasys found that most are very concerned with personal devices connecting to the corporate network, even though 78 percent of them admitted using personal devices for business-related purposes.

And while 84 percent indicated confidence in their network safeguards, 70 percent said they are at least somewhat concerned with mobile devices tapping corporate networks.

In the small and midsize business space, where decision makers may be too busy to notice potential risks, the situation is more troubling. Despite all the evangelizing by the IT services community about the need for network security and business continuity plans, SMBs are notoriously behind the times in protecting themselves.

Security vendor AVG has found that one in six of the smallest businesses – those with one to 10 employees – don’t protect themselves at all. And even among those businesses that are attuned to traditional email and web-related security risks, only 27 percent have woken up to malware and virus threats from mobile devices.

So, you see, there’s plenty of work to do.

Of course, IT service providers are sure to get multiple eager helping hands from vendors that will be introducing mobile management tools. I wouldn’t be surprised if such tools start hitting the market in 2012 at the same rate dandelions pop up in summer meadows.

Industry veteran Howard Cohen, who is currently senior resultant at The Tech Channel Partners Results Group, talked about the emergence of a "mobility management service provider (MMSP)" at a Ziff Davis Enterprise webcast in October. The MMSP, he says, will advise clients and deliver services around managing and securing mobile devices in the workplace.

Such a model is bound to produce healthy dividends. BYOD’s momentum will continue unabated in 2012, and as such, it will create network security and management needs for which businesses will need an IT services firm.

MDM is an immature market, with plenty of room for innovation, which means that service providers and their clients should proceed with caution as they develop strategies to manage their users’ devices. This is always the case whenever a new technology challenge emerges. The trick of course is to convert the challenge into a profitable opportunity.

Pedro Pereira is a columnist for Channel Insider and a freelance writer. He can be reached at pedrocolumn@gmail.com.