Enterprise Mobility Management and BYOD

If Hunter S. Thompson had set out to find "fear and loathing" in Las Vegas at Interop 2013, he might have keyed on all the discussion on mobility management and BYOD (no, not that '60s thing, "Bring Your Own D***s" – it stands for Bring Your Own Device.)

When I wasn't at our booth briefing customers on Cradlepoint NetCloud Manager, our next generation platform for the management of Cradlepoint solutions, I had the chance to attend a few conference sessions on enterprise mobility and BYOD management issues. One session in particular, entitled Enterprise Mobility Best Practices, included panelists charged with mobile device management at three different enterprises. What impressed me most about the level of attention this is getting was the simple audience survey. About 350 attendees – mostly IT professionals or executives – were asked:

  • Does your organization allow BYOD? Over 85% raised their hands.
  • Do you have an enterprise mobility policy in place? Surprisingly, less than 10% responded.
  • Are you thinking about the subject? Back up to about 85%.

So clearly the majority of us are in this "we better figure out our mobility policy and systems" mode.   

With more and more employee-owned or guest-owned mobile devices in the enterprise, several potential challenges arise. Given that a smartphone with 64 GB is now an effective electronic briefcase in the enterprise, the potential for data leak through inadvertent transmissions or lost devices increases. In addition, the enterprise must decide what corporate IT resources the BYOD can access, and with what levels of user authentication. And of course all this occurs on a wireless LAN, which presents further challenges for proper security and authentication. Depending on the industry, compliance and audit trail requirements also add to the challenge of mobility in the enterprise.

To address these issues, it appears that most enterprises are taking a cautious approach, starting with Internet access and email – often on a guest segment of the network. When it comes to allowing employee BYOD access to corporate applications, the panelists discussed much tighter authentication and security. One enterprise required each employee's mobile device be registered in their Airwatch application to enforce the mobile access policies. It's hard not to feel a bit of 'big brother' effect, especially when most BYOD devices fit both a personal and a business use. So the tradeoffs here will be tricky for enterprise IT managers to navigate while they fulfill their obligation to protect their corporate assets and networks.  

The challenges of mobility management and BYOD have spawned the 'Mobile Device Management' category of software solutions. Besides Airwatch (noted above), Citrix announced their new mobile device management solution at Interop. Mobile device management seems ripe for delivery via cloud-based services, especially to enterprises with many small distributed locations, such as retail and branch office. Many of our Cradlepoint customers with distributed branch locations are progressing with mobility and BYOD initiatives, and we are engaged in collaboration to advance their visibility and management.

One thing is for sure: There is no going back. We are tied to our mobile devices and their potential for productivity. The key will be good enterprise stewardship of BYOD.