The prosumer problem

Enterprise mobility is not all that it appears to be in the Middle East region and indications are that most enterprises have a long way to go before putting in place comprehensive policies that manage employee devices and ensure data security.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  June 10, 2007

|~||~||~|Mobility is a subject hard to miss in the Middle East IT market. Every other conference and prediction states that as professionals become more ‘mobile’ in the region and as their connectivity needs increase, enterprises are in the process of implementing products and solutions to manage the growing complexity, especially in terms of data security. A cursory glance around would have you convinced that this is the case. Mobility is certainly on a high in the region. Some countries boast more than 100% penetration for cell phone devices while increasing interaction and trade with nations abroad has given rise to new age executives who tote multiple mobile devices – laptops, smartphones, PDAs etc – to and from the region. Middle East consumers also show a great interest in gadgets and tend to buy the latest technologies soon as they hit the markets. However, there is a glitch. Almost all the elements of mobility in the Middle East region still remain largely in the area of consumer interaction. In other words, even business executives buy, consider and treat mobile devices as intrinsically personal ones. This is especially true for smartphones and PDAs. In usage terms though, these consumers – or prosumers as some in the industry call them – are likely to use the mobile devices for both business and personal needs. They might use the device to connect remotely to their office corporate networks in order to communicate, correspond and have real time information while on the field. They might also use the mobile device to access various sites on the internet, download applications if they feel the need and exchange information over available wireless networks and/or Bluetooth with other devices. This is the true state of mobility in most Middle East enterprises and in IT terms, it denotes a security time bomb waiting to explode. Unlike more mature markets, and quite contrary to what some IT vendors might tell you, enterprises in the region are yet to awake to the immense dangers to their data as their employee base grows wider and reaches farther corners of the earth. It is essential for firms and their IT heads to put in place comprehensive mobile device and data security policies in order to ensure that the corporate information employees access and use while on the move remains within corporate networks and in safe hands. Such policies have to be accompanied by strict regulations on not only how mobile devices are used while employees work remotely, but also what kind of devices they use for connectivity. Companies have to be aware that protecting the increasing number of mobile devices is not a simple case of installing antivirus and anti-spyware, but a more complex mesh of process and technology that assure employee productivity while protecting mission-critical data. (Read the indepth article on the threat landscape and mobile data security in NME’s July issue). Industry watchers would tell you, and I would agree, that there are only a few verticals in the region which have comprehensive and truly ‘mobile’ business executives and take data security on their devices seriously. These would include firms in banking and financial institutions, the IT industry itself and the retail segment to a certain extent. Most other companies in the region, by all indications, have some way to go before they can harness the true benefits of mobility for their employees, leave alone attending to the security concerns that can arrive with a growing base of remote workers. ||**||

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