Talking enterprise mobility

Enterprise mobility is the trend towards a shift in work habits, with more employees working out of the office.

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By  Piers Ford Published  September 27, 2013

Enterprise mobility is the trend towards a shift in work habits, with more employees working out of the office. While enterprise mobility can improve employee productivity, it also creates security risks and this is where solution providers come in.

If an organisation’s people are mobile, so is its data. Such is the present state of the enterprise IT landscape. And while it brings a host of benefits, not least in the flexibility and cost-effectiveness enjoyed by corporate users, and the improved productivity they bring to the business, it also sets down a host of challenges – not least ensuring the security of that data.

For their part, in the age of bring your own device (BYOD), users have high expectations when it comes to the actual experience of accessing applications. But with the cloud increasingly used as the de facto platform for storing and sharing data, the enterprise has to balance provision with security.

That means deploying appropriate mobility management strategies, implementing streamlined mobile integration projects and picking the best mobile enterprise application platforms to suit its specific circumstances. And that’s where the channel really has the chance to make a difference.

“The integration of mobile solutions to widen enterprise boundaries requires consultancy, implementation skills, maintenance, integration on an infinite range of devices, and is a fantastic opportunity for the channel,” said Den Sullivan, head of architectures, emerging markets, at network giant Cisco.

Sullivan said that many traditional IT services – including security – are being provided as cloud services in the mobile arena, as players shift away from their core handset/tariff business models. Resellers and systems integrators can capitalise on the opportunity to partner them across the design, architecture and implementation spectrum.

“People are demanding more flexible working environments,” he said. “They come out of university with much higher expectations of access to applications and data, because that’s what they’ve been used to. So it becomes a factor in recruitment and retention. The IT group has to think about how it provides the network infrastructure to deliver on these expectations.

“You need a great network to give your users a great device experience – and increasingly, that involves wireless integration. Resellers must be ready to go into their customers with the skills to optimise wireless coverage and increase bandwidth coverage.”

According to analyst IDC, there will be 30 billion ‘connected’ devices around the world by 2020. Regional statistics in the Middle East reflect this ongoing explosion in user and data mobility. For example, in the UAE, mobile computing already accounts for 73% of mobile internet usage, according to the TNS MENA Annual Mobile Life Report.

Nader Baghdadi, Middle East regional director at vendor Ruckus Wireless, said today’s users typically think of mobile devices as an inclusive technology. Wireless technology allows enterprises to respond by giving them full application access. But this throws up some important challenges.

“For instance, there should be an automated patch management service that manages large mobile deployment on a device-by-device basis,” he said. “The lack of this automated process can be administratively challenging and time-consuming. Additionally, within the scope of securing the organisations themselves, protecting data and devices from unauthorised access can also be challenging, and so it is important to ensure that security measurements are strong enough.”

Plugging the security knowledge gap remains an important lever for the channel. Florian Malecki, EMEA product & solution marketing director at Dell Software, said organisations are grappling with the reality that mobile devices are not only conduits of information flow but, unfortunately, also a delivery vehicle for malware into networks, either inadvertently or intentionally.

“Different security practices apply depending upon whether the mobile devices are connecting from outside or inside the network perimeter,” he said. “Some of the main challenges when it comes to managing and controlling the network are: issues surrounding technical support, employees’ compensation, company usage policies, legal implication, data protection, application management such as what apps are acceptable and what apps are not.”

According to Nicolai Solling, director of technology services at Help AG, the security implications of BYOD offer resellers the chance to educate as well as simply to sell.

“Customers want to reap the benefits of BYOD but in many cases are unaware which solution will meet their specific requirement,” he said. “[But] while it is true that most customers would place security at the top of the list, there are other issues such as network readiness, employee training, integration with well-established business applications, and the development of new mobile-specific applications, which all need to be addressed.

“Currently, being able to understand a customer’s requirements and present the best possible solution is the skill that will benefit resellers in the region. Once the technology is well established and customers are ready and willing to further their investment in BYOD, resellers will have to look at developing specific skills sets, including the in-house development of mobile applications.

“Resellers can work closely with customers to develop corporate app stores which restrict employees to downloading apps that have been scrutinised by the IT department.”

Apart from security, and ensuring that the user experience is consistent across the WAN and LAN, mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs) are the glue when it comes to designing and implementing a mobile network (see box).

Taj El-Khayat, general manager, MENA at Riverbed, said that the MEAP works as a centralised system, allowing users to clearly view and track developments on the network, review security threats, introduce new software and consolidate the usability of apps on a selection of devices, regardless of the operating systems.

“There are two main goals of any MEAP service,” he said. “For the mobile and virtual environment of a business to be linked to the corporate network and management software of an enterprise system; and to consolidate and share updates of software and system progression, to be managed and viewed by the enterprise.

“Additionally, businesses are looking for other qualities in a MEAP plan, and we believe these are some of the key factors: consolidation of applications on a single infrastructure; compatibility with device operating systems; improvement of end-user performance; application and website acceleration; cloud integration; and the reduction of downtime risk.”

He said the cloud has significantly opened up the mobile integration market for resellers.

“There is so much more to offer businesses than a stock-standard solution,” he said. “For this reason, resellers can look to support businesses on their needs, and develop platforms and software solutions that are personalised to suit their requirements.

At Ruckus Wireless, Baghdadi said that with an exponential increase in the number of mobile workers expected during the next few years (IDC expects 1.3 billion to be identified as such, globally, by 2015), the cloud will continue to play a major role in allowing them to access company data anywhere and at any time.

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