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Mobile workshop roundup As many of you will have noticed, we have been running an online workshop on the site over the past month or so gathering reader views on the way things are unfolding in the mobile space.

As part of the exercise, we kicked off discussions in the following areas:

  • Mobile email options and use
  • Security and mobile working
  • Evolution of mobile devices
  • Fixed/mobile convergence

The depth and breadth of feedback we received was superb, and some good experiences and insights emerged – so thanks to all of those who contributed.

By way of a round up, here are some of the main points that came out of each theme:

Mobile email options and use

Our first article on mobile email kicked off a lively debate. Clearly, the viral spread of mobile email, led by RIM's BlackBerry, has produced some pretty strong opinions.

Readers' views crossed the spectrum from "can't live without it" to "it's just a play thing for the idle overpaid on the top floor". Here are a couple of example quotes from the workshop:

"Mobile email is the greatest thing since mobile phones were invented. My productivity has gone through the roof."

As an administrator of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, all I can say is we have to subsidise the lifestyles of its users – people getting yet another freebie at the expense of their employers.

Either way, since the company generally supplies, or at least has to endorse and enable a mobile email device, it's in danger of becoming a status symbol like a company car, and therefore prone to all the same type of office politics. Nevertheless, 60 per cent of readers responding to our follow up mini-poll felt that mobile email is important to the business.

Many of the issues that people have with mobile email can be addressed if the employer has sensible policies: rolling it out where it helps the business, rather than just massaging egos, and dealing with some of the softer issues during deployment, like setting expectations for out of hours availability and maintenance of work/life balance.

From a technology perspective, BlackBerry is obviously in the lead, but the arrival of push email from Microsoft has catapulted the Redmond giant to an equal level of mindshare with RIM as a strategic supplier of mobile technology looking forward – something confirmed by our poll that put the two players neck and neck in the enterprise space.

It'll be interesting to see how things develop here. BlackBerry does more today, but Windows Mobile is often viewed as a more open and therefore potentially extensible platform for the future. The jury seems to be out on whether that flexibility will come at a cost in terms of security and stability, however.

As the market and solutions mature, it is clear that people are becoming more demanding. Apart from raising the above issues, many comments addressed the need for some very specific features and areas improvement, confirming that mobile email really is being used seriously out there.

Security and mobile working

Our second topic examined the security issues associated with mobile working.

What's clear from the feedback is that the weakest link in the mobile security chain is the user. As one reader put it:

"It's a user problem – no matter which way you want to slice it. We're all fallible and no doubt even the world's greatest security guru mislays his keys, PDA or whatever every now and again."

Much of the discussion was then about what could be done to deal with this. There was a general consensus that there are some technology related measures that can be put into place and comments such as "encrypt, encrypt, encrypt" and "good decisions up front are obviously critical", highlight a couple of the imperatives here.

But the results of a workshop poll really did underline where a lot of the work needs to be done. Only 20 per cent of respondents said their mobile users had a good attitude to security, with 45 per cent at the other extreme citing attitudes being poor. Yet only a third of organisations seem to be delivering any level of training or guidance of any kind on avoiding mobile data security exposure.

Some good news of a different kind emerged, however, in that there was very little response to a prompt for experiences with mobile malware. Perhaps the reason for this can be summed up in this reader comment:

"There's definitely a lot of talk about malware and viruses running through mobile devices, but there's an awful lot of market making in these statements. I've yet to witness anything of the sort and we have a lot of mobile users."

The bottom line on security seems to be that we need to move on from the traditional emphasis on whether the technology is secure per se and focus more on making sure the technology is deployed and used in a secure manner.

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