|By Swarna Podila
|April 15, 2013 08:00 AM EDT
There is little argument at this point that the mass adoption of mobile technology and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies by enterprises is a true business technology revolution. At the core, the catalysts driving this revolution are the vast array of mobile devices leveraging soaring bandwidth - 4G - and super-fast internals - quad-core processors - which have become commonplace.
With this high-bandwidth, ultra-capable combination, end users see the productivity and convenience possible by running the newest, most sophisticated business applications on their own personal mobile devices.
And it's not just end users who can benefit. A recent Symantec survey found that innovative companies - early technology adopters, especially of mobile technology - are seeing significantly higher revenue growth and higher profits than traditional organizations; in fact, by nearly 50 percent.
The question facing every enterprise is, "Are we re-imagining our business with mobility as a central component?" Here are some suggestions on how to accomplish this, while keeping sensitive business data secure.
Evaluate App and Data Needs
The previously mentioned Symantec survey found that 84 percent of those successful, innovative companies are proactively adapting their businesses based on business drivers rather than simply reacting to user demand. So, companies need to evaluate. Thus, the first step in re-imagining business in a mobile world is to determine the apps and data end users could utilize - beyond email - to get their jobs done more efficiently.
Apps for CRM, e-Health and ERP are just a few good examples of line-of-business apps companies in different industries can leverage to improve productivity through mobility. Add to this list cloud-based file storage apps that give users access to their data across computing platforms.
Beyond app type, companies must take a closer look at target user groups to determine each segment's specific data access needs. Some users might need resident data on their devices, while others who are likely to have connectivity all the time can manage with cloud-based data. Understanding each group's specific needs will help determine the type of technology approaches possible.
Once app type and data access requirements are well understood, companies need to explore app procurement. For some, the only way to get exactly what is needed is to build a custom app or have one built for them. However, hundreds of thousands of apps are already available for the most popular mobile operating systems and, in many instances, the perfect app likely already exists.
Keep App and Data Security Top of Mind
The Symantec survey referenced earlier also found that the innovative companies who are leading the way in mobility adoption also experience about twice as many mobile security-related incidents, such as loss of corporate data. This leads to a second question enterprises must ask, "How do we keep our sensitive data safe in a mobile world?"
From a high level, there are really two approaches to keeping business data on mobile devices secure. The first is protecting data at the device level and the second is protecting it at the app level.
Device Level Data Protection
Data protection on mobile devices at the device level largely involves mobile device management (MDM) software. MDM provides business IT with control over complete devices and, as such, policies can ensure devices are password-protected and also provide the ability to remotely lock or wipe devices in the event of a loss or theft and even prevent the forwarding of emails.
However, MDM cannot address other data loss-related concerns such as copy and pasting of sensitive information or, more important, protecting corporate data in applications beyond the email client.
Thus, the device level approach creates an environment where it becomes far too easy for sensitive data to mingle with personal apps and leak out through, for example, a web-based email account, social networking application or personal cloud storage. This can all occur without IT ever knowing.
App Level Data Protection
The next logical area where enterprises can implement and enforce policies to keep data on mobile devices secure is at the app level. The previous iterations of this approach involved sandboxing technologies, where corporate data on mobile devices is held in an established digital container on devices, and data flow from the sandbox or container is controlled. This approach prevents the confluence of personal and corporate data, the ability to copy and paste data accessed from within the sandbox to other areas on the device, and unauthorized email forwards from within the sandbox.
This sandbox approach worked well when email was the only app businesses wanted to mobilize. However, as companies re-imagine their businesses with a focus on mobility, this approach falls short. Any corporate app that needs protection has to be built in or modified to fit into the sandbox. With the diversity of apps available, this approach is very limiting and even the early proponents of this technology are moving on to other strategies.
One of these strategies is mobile application management (MAM), which addresses the limitations of sandboxes while still meeting corporate security needs. MAM technology allows companies to wrap their corporate apps and the data tied to them in their own security and management layers. This gives enterprises complete control of their apps and data while leaving user-owned information untouched. In contrast to the legacy sandboxing approach, it does this without any additional overhead, either from affecting device usage or source code modifications.
With MAM, controls such as authentication, encryption, data loss prevention and expiration - apps and data can be manually expired or set to automatically remove themselves from devices based on perimeters established by administrators - can all be applied to corporate apps and other resources on otherwise unmanaged, user-owned devices. In this way, complete end-to-end visibility and control over where sensitive data is flowing - regardless of what mobile application or service is being used to traffic the data - can be achieved and, just as important, maintained.
In addition, MAM allows multiple corporate apps to securely communicate with each other and for data traffic segregation, so all traffic from corporate apps can be routed through the corporate network while the personal traffic is left unmonitored.
It is important to note, however, that MAM as a term is being used loosely within the industry. Different technology vendors use it to describe different things. Some refer to app distribution functionality as MAM and still others refer to simple app blocking as MAM.
From an enterprise perspective, however, MAM should be more than that. More than simply distributing the right apps and blocking the wrong ones, MAM is about protecting the corporate apps and data on mobile devices by taking management from a device level to an application level. It is the most effective tool for separating corporate data from personal data to make safe, effective BYOD policies possible.
Re-imagining business for a mobile world, while not without its growing pains, can be a fairly straightforward process. However, to re-imagine business for a mobile world confidently, MAM should be a part of every discussion.
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