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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?

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