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5/13/2011
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Mobile Security Needs Executive Involvement

IT managers need a plan for managing a highly variable fleet of devices through mobile device management, according to panelists at InformationWeek Analytics Live sessions at Interop 2011.

If you missed the InformationWeek Analytics Live sessions at Interop 2011 in Las Vegas, a UBM TechWeb event, you definitely want to check out the slides--there's a huge wealth of information that you can use when you are preparing to discuss mobility with executives.

Below are some of the salient points that you may want to consider from the consumerization and midmarket mobility and security presentations.

-- The next time that you start talking mobility strategy, you might want to grab the graphically presented stats that Grant Moerschel, analyst and VP of Wavegard, got from Infonetics Research. They clearly show, in an objective manner, the staggering growth trend of mobile devices. For executive business management or IT staffs to ignore such a trend would be foolhardy.

-- According to analyst Mike Davis, who is also CEO of Savvid Technologies, "platform fragmentation makes effective risk reduction and management just about impossible without a heterogeneous device management platform." In other words, IT needs to know that standardizing devices is going to be impossible, and has to plan for managing a highly variable fleet of devices through mobile device management (MDM). We had strong agreement on this. A riff on this that I threw into the mix that I've learned from other IT leaders is that you really want to bundle the cost of MDM into the ongoing opex of the device. That is, nobody's going to give $50,000 annually to IT to run MDM, but it is relatively simple to negotiate with business units to pay $5 to $15 a month on top of their mobile bills, especially when you explain the benefit.

-- There's some disagreement, even within our ranks, about the desirability to focus on remote-control tools as the primary way that users interface with corporate data. Others say that this secures the device, with no data at rest. I say, sure, that's true, but it completely ignores the reason that the device was purchased in the first place: a truly mobile user interface, simpler apps, ability to work offline via cloud file sync tools, quicker access from the time you turn it on to the time you get work done. If folks wanted Windows, they'd buy netbooks, not iPads or Android tables. Ever try to right click from a tablet?

-- More than ever, IT folks are trying to wrap their arms around this realization that they can't do it alone. In the same way that ERP projects fail without executive involvement, I believe that mobility initiatives won't work without some level of executive involvement. Davis did a nice job of laying out the threat environment--everything from GSM being cracked, to defects in kernel code, to malicious apps from the app store that surreptitiously call Russian pay-by-the-minute numbers or send SMS messages that result in extra charges on your phone bill. Execs need to be educated regarding the threat environment. But so do end users. Davis said that he's had a lot of success in compliance when he educates folks that basic security practices not only protect the corporation, these practices also protect the employee's photos, personal information, and in some cases, personal finances.

Jonathan Feldman is a contributing editor for InformationWeek and director of IT services for a rapidly growing city in North Carolina. Write to him at jf@feldman.org or at @_jfeldman.


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