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The four Rs of the mobile revolution

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It’s an amazing thought that there are now almost as many mobile phones on the planet as there are people. With 85% of the world’s population covered by commercial wireless signals, mobile phones are more prevalent than clean water or electricity.
The mobile phone has changed voice communication forever, but the latest phase, the rise of mobile data communications, is only just beginning, writes Eric McGee, managing executive of Security Services – Cloud Infrastructure Services at Business Connexion.
Rise
The mobile data revolution is fuelled by broadband connectivity now widely available from the mobile networks. Users need a smart mobile device to fully benefit from mobile data, and research shows about 13% of the global population has a smart device, while 1,1-billion are mobile broadband subscribers, or 17% of the global population.
South Africa is keeping pace with 13% of users having smart devices, and Gartner predicts this will rise to 80% by 2014. Although the mobile data revolution is still in its infancy, every day more people are becoming connected to access information, communicate and collaborate in the Internet economy.
Companies such as Google and Apple, mobile network operators and content providers are fuelling the revolution to capitalise on its enormous potential.
Rewards
Smart devices offer voice communications, e-mail and access to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, integrating business, social and private lives. That is driving the “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon as people like to choose their own device.
Companies flexible enough to support BYOD can find that it helps to attract and retain top performers, who often work outside of traditional work hours. End-users enjoy increased mobility, higher job satisfaction, and improved efficiency and productivity.
That means mobility also unlocks better productivity for organisations. A recent iPass survey of 1 100 mobile workers showed that “employees who use mobile devices for both work and personal issues put in 240 more hours per year than those who do not”. Research also shows it takes 26 hours for the average person to report a lost wallet, but only 68 minutes to report a lost phone.
It takes 90 minutes for the average person to respond to an e-mail, but only 90 seconds to respond to a text message. Moreover, 70% of all mobile searches result in action within an hour.
These statistics clearly show the increased productivity mobility brings to the office. Users are also more willing to refresh their own devices far more frequently than the technology replacement cycle of a typical organisation, further enhancing productivity.
Since users maintain their own devices, the number of calls to the help desk reduces, lowering IT service costs and allowing IT staff to focus on more strategic functions.
Risk
Mobility and BYOD brings a number of challenges, however. An estimated 70-million devices are lost or stolen every year, often exposing sensitive information with far reaching implications for organisations.
This is naturally a major concern relating to BYOD and mobility in general, which creates a complicated end-user environment and makes implementing an acceptable use policy (AUP) more difficult. Because the IT department does not own the device, it is difficult to enforce and manage compliance policies.
When an employee services’ terminate, sensitive corporate data must be removed from their devices. However, it is difficult to segregate and retrieve organisational data from these devices.
Remedy
To embrace the rewards and address the risks mobility brings, organisations require remedies to control these complex issues. Organisations must take a structured approach that starts by developing and adopting a sensible mobility and BYOD governance policy acceptable to both the organisation and end-users.
Once governance is in place the correct technology controls must be implemented to ensure compliance to the governance policy and create the level of control needed to remediate the risks.
Mobile device management (MDM) technology can manage the complex mobile landscape to deliver the following benefits:
* Secure devices consistently – gain control by applying consistent policy settings across the multitude of mobile platforms (Apple, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, Windows Mobile, Windows desktops and Apple Macs), whether employee or organisation owned.
* Provide secure content management – allow organisations to retain control over their content when mobile devices access sensitive information.
* Reduce infrastructure cost – the fast pace of change in mobile technologies mean high capital investment is needed in the infrastructure to cater for new threats and developments.
Cloud-based solutions can avoid that endless spending, by shifting the responsibility to a specialist service provider. The service provider will leverage its economies of scale to shield organisations from high investment costs and provide controls that are scalable and flexible.
Business Connexion has a cloud-based MDM solution that secures mobile devices and offers secure content management without expensive investment in new infrastructure.
The mobility phenomenon offers huge benefits for end-users and organisations alike, but carries some risks. Mobility is happening at a staggering rate, and organisations that adopt these remedies will be able to capitalise on this rising trend without undue risk to reap the rewards of mobility.