MDM Strategies To Meet Mobility Demand

When it comes to managing smartphones and other portable gear, since 2008, IT groups have gotten away with being on cruise control. The free ride is going to end, and sooner than you may think.
Remember the good old days, when only star salespeople and top execs had smartphones, and they could choose between a BlackBerry and a BlackBerry? Now, platform choice is the name of the game for end users.

If you haven't seen demand for smartphones explode yet, you will. That's the top-level finding of our InformationWeek Analytics 2010 Mobile Device Management and Security Survey. Surprisingly, employee smartphone use hasn't moved much since our last survey on the topic, in 2008: today 21% of companies have more than half their employees using smartphones, little changed from the 17% in February 2008.

However, fully 87% of the 307 respondents say smartphones will become more predominant in their environments, and just 6% say the fixed/mobile mix will stay the same. And the surge of smartphones won't be all BlackBerry--seven mobile device vendors registered double-digit adoption levels in our poll.

IT is getting ready for the boom: Security is by far the top reason for deploying or planning to deploy software for mobile device management (MDM)--cited by 73% in March vs. 52% in 2008. There's good reason to worry. The mix of peripatetic hardware IT must now lock down extends beyond smartphones to netbooks, tablets, and multigigabyte USB devices the size of pop-tops. We're surprised to see flash drives take the No. 1 spot among eight data disclosure risks. But if the economy grows and business spending increases, smartphones are most likely to surge and create new problems for IT.

"As mobile devices grow smarter, this is the biggest area of data leakage concern, besides cloud computing," says a principal security architect with a large IT vendor. Good luck reining in either of them. Employees want to work and share information wherever they happen to be. Mobile utopia is the theme of lavish ad campaigns from carriers and smartphone makers. Your users see rich ecosystems replete with slick hardware, clever applications, and ubiquitous network connectivity, and think, "Hey, that could be me!"

InformationWeek: May 3, 2010 Issue To read the rest of the article, download a free PDF of InformationWeek magazine
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