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Redefining mobile data management
The consumerisation of IT has brought together two very powerful forces: mobility and cloud. Either of these two represents a major shift on their own, however, how they interact is giving organisations a real headache, says Nigel Tozer, product marketing director EMEA at CommVault.
Not least is the expectation of users – who only want a few simple things: all of their own data and the corporate data they need for their job, anytime and everywhere. Modern users also want easy and secure ways to share data with colleagues, business partners and customers. Simple.
If IT is to match the expectations of their users and get the productivity boost promised by mobility, it is important for organisations to move beyond traditional storage practices and adopt more user-centric approaches. This means giving users the same sort of experience from your organisation that they already get from mobile devices and the consumer clouds that come with them, with regard to data access and sharing.
This is no small challenge; it is now commonplace in most organisations for more data to exist on mobile devices than in the data centre. There is also pressure to tighten security and governance on mobile data while at the same time users want more access made easier.
It’s a sad state that IT support for data on mobile devices usually only extends to basic backup for laptops (though even that is all too rare) with little or no provision made for smartphones and tablets. However, if you’re going to the trouble of collecting data on laptops, maybe you could do more with it. Also, if you could do more with it, maybe there’s more reason to invest in managing mobile data?
Data management is giving everyone a headache
Part of the problem is that neither side of the mobility and public cloud equation (users and IT) is looking at the issue from each other’s perspective. ‘Selfish users’ want the freedom to make their work as easy as possible and the ‘draconian IT team’ don’t understand how users go about their jobs.
Tough questions don’t always require hard answers
* What data is on mobile devices?
It’s remarkable how often Chief Information Officers (CIOs), even IT managers, avoid these questions because they feel they could be too difficult to address or, even worse, that they could lead to a revolt within the organisation if they result in draconian measures being put in place. It doesn’t have to be like that. In reality, businesses don’t have to invade staff privacy to arrive at a more effective data management regime. The fact is they can provide the controls required to improve security, risk and productivity without antagonising their employees.
As for those who refuse to acknowledge there is an issue at all, they need to realise that pretending Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) isn’t happening and isn’t widespread is not an acceptable excuse for inaction. It’s commonplace for teams to share data in open public cloud folders and there are many real-life examples of companies falling-foul of this. I heard recently of a sales team at another company that kept their prospect list in such a share and one of the team that left for a competitor was still able to access it many months later.
Striking the right balance for everyone
Once user data comes under control again, you can then enable secure, in-house sync and share features, keeping files synchronised and accessible on all their mobile devices, so employees have what they need, when they need it. File sharing inside or outside the organisation becomes simple for users whatever device they are using and it can be managed, with access properly controlled and made secure. The regular collection from user’s devices effectively becomes a backup, keeping them productive even if the worst happens, all with the security of remote wipe for lost or stolen devices.
Then there is the matter of governance – if there’s a chance the data on mobile devices affects the company’s compliance status. As the mobile workforce continues to grow and more data gets generated outside the data centre, bringing endpoint data into a searchable dataset for governance, compliance or legal reasons becomes critical.
This does raise privacy concerns for some though. Organisations need be completely transparent about what is collected and how it is used; there needs to be a privacy charter created for employees. The good news is that this isn’t as hard as it seems and, with the right technology, corporate actions can be audited for transparency.
It may not be apparent to organisations and users that mobility can introduce significant risks to their established data management regimes. However, if businesses want to ensure they are ready to flourish in the much-altered landscape ushered in by combined mobility and cloud functions, they need to look for solutions that enable them to access and use data no matter where it resides. It may not be as hard as you expect but it’s certainly more urgent than you think.