Businesses might long for the relatively simple policies for corporate-owned mobile devices of the BlackBerry age, but today's realities are forcing them to prepare their networks for a continued onslaught of authorized and unauthorized access from a slew of consumer devices, led by iPhones and iPads.
"If I'm this enterprise IT guy, is there any chance I can say 'no' to Apple devices coming onto my network?" says Andrew Braunberg, research director for the Business Technology and Software group at Current Analysis. "These devices are here to stay."
Colleague Kathryn Weldon, principal analyst for Enterprise Mobility at Current Analysis, says the situation is complicated, however, by the fact that some companies haven't outlined bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.
"There are going to be different constituencies within the enterprise, some of whom are going to bring their own devices because it's fun doing so and others of whom the corporation will want to take control," Weldon says.
Industry research indicates that iOS devices will become ever more prevalent on corporate networks in 2012. For example, 54% of respondents to IDG Connect's iPad for Business Survey reported using their Apple tablet for work purposes, compared to just 42% who cited personal communication.
For IT managers attempting to handle the wave of iOS activity on the network, Braunberg says compromises are needed.
"The choice issue is just impossible to fight," Braunberg says. "If you can provide enough choice to keep the employee happy, and IT can get management control back regardless, then it becomes not so much of an issue in the long term. The question is really about management and control."
Striking a balance between freedom in mobility and reliability in a network means a compromise from every participant, Braunberg says. Those on the business side will need to make the investments in security tools, such as mobile data-loss prevention and remote wipe and lock tools, whereas end users will need to be willing to endure the inconvenience of a corporate client running on their personal phone, Braunberg says. In a perfect world, in which each side was willing to work together, BYOD wouldn't be an issue.
"There's some minimal level that IT can request from end users to allow them to use these devices," Braunberg says. "And I don't think that's a bar that's too high for most employees to understand that there's that requirement."
Maribel Lopez, founder and principal of Lopez Research, sees the potential for tension between users and IT, especially for companies that install remote wipe clients on employees' phones.
"As a firm, you'll need a solution that allows you to remotely wipe the corporate data but keep the personal data intact," Lopez says. "This is pretty new still, as most solutions do a full wipe. Try explaining to your employees that you're sorry that you erased the photo of his child walking for the first time."
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