Mastering Mobile Device Management

By Pedro Pereira

The inclination among employees to bring personal mobile devices into the workplace is creating serious challenges for companies that have to protect their networks against unauthorized use.

IT managers often don’t even know what or how many devices are tapping their networks, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how dangerous that is. Even innocently, an employee could expose his or her company to a security leak, which could lead to unpleasant regulatory penalties.

As usual, whenever an IT challenge presents itself in the business world, it creates opportunities for solution providers. This one revolves around managing and securing personal mobile devices that tap corporate networks.

It’s a new opportunity with lots of potential because the challenge has remained mostly unmet and promises to get more complex with the ongoing proliferation of mobile devices. Users are growing rather attached to their smartphones, tablets and laptops, and in many cases they simply can’t resist logging on while at work.

Employers, therefore, have to figure out how to promote the safe use of these devices so they don’t end up with a potentially catastrophic security leak or breach. The alternative – banning the devices – is simply impractical, if not outright impossible. We’re not talking about playing "Angry Birds" here; many employees actually use personal devices to help them with their work.

This challenge was the topic of a Ziff Davis Enterprise webcast I recently moderated, titled "Capitalizing On The Mobile Computing Revolution: How To Incorporate Mobile Devices Into Your Services Offering," with panelists Howard Cohen, senior resultant at The Tech Channel Partners Results Group; Patrick Burns, director of product development at Autotask; and Channel Insider Editor Jessica Davis.

Cohen talked about the emergence of a new model in the IT channel, the "mobility management service provider (MMSP)," which revolves around consulting services to set policies for, manage and secure mobile devices in the workplace. The MMSP, Cohen posited, has a fundamental role in guiding business customers toward the implementation of a secure mobile device platform compliant with regulations governing the use, transmission, storage and recovery of data.

With smartphones becoming the primary device to communicate and access information, and tablets replacing laptops in travel, Cohen sees a real need for solution providers to step up to the plate.

And he’s not alone. The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) has launched an effort to help solution providers seize mobile management opportunities. The association is developing IT channel training programs and resources focused on how to accommodate mobile devices within the enterprise.

To that end, CompTIA is creating an advisory board with participation from all sectors of the mobile community, including carriers, application developers, solution providers and manufacturers. Invitations have gone out to join the group, which Kelly Ricker, CompTIA’s vice president of events and education, says "will help to direct the goals and objectives for CompTIA's mobile technology channel training initiatives."

The advisory group will be tasked with studying various aspects of mobile management, including the bundling and marketing of device management services, mobile security, help desk, and mobile application development and management.

CompTIA is relatively quick in launching useful programs for the IT channel, but solution providers should in the meantime already be working with their customers on how to manage mobile devices and protect themselves.

They need to develop policies requiring employees to inform the IT department about the devices they use, and whether they use them for work-related functions. Providers also must persuade employers to either issue company-owned devices or secure personal smartphones, tablets and laptops.

While an employer may resist paying to secure a personal device, doing so has multiple benefits. Not only are employers protecting themselves, but they also are giving workers something they are bound to view it as a perk. And, hey, perks are always nice.

The digital world is becoming increasingly mobile. And like anything worth doing, getting a handle on the management of mobility will take some work. For solution providers, of course, that’s always a good thing.


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


This article was originally published on 2011-10-26