BYOD insights: MDM, future trends and developing your own policy

The BYOD boom is still taking hold, with many companies struggling to adapt effectively and efficiently to this new way of working.

Unsurprisingly, security has been a large concern as the lines between personal and business become more and more blurred, with factors such as insecure networks and the storing of corporate information on personal devices being contributing factors.

To discuss the issues in more detail, we spoke to Steve Fallin, senior product manager at NetMotion Wireless. The interview can be found below:

It often feels like CIOs and CSIOs are stuck in a vicious cycle of BYOD hell where connectivity issues stop Mobile Device Management (MDM) from being pursued whilst resources are spent on connectivity, but then at the same time a lot of MDM solutions rely on connectivity to be effective. Is the UK’s infrastructure ready for BYOD and how can businesses break this vicious cycle?

The state of the UK infrastructure is a bit of a red herring in this debate. Of course dead spots and inconsistent coverage are obstacles, but the technology exists to help enterprises attain, or give users the impression of pervasive mobility.

In reality there is never going to be one single network that can give you superb coverage 100 per cent of the time, no matter where you are. Businesses need to implement connectivity solutions that are resilient enough to ride out all of the varieties of modern cellular data networks, and by doing so, will allow MDM solutions to work at their best.

But more importantly, such solutions will enable reliable, persistent access to critical applications and data, even when connectivity is a challenge. This will help businesses achieve greater productivity and deliver a better end user experience.

On the same tack, is MDM the only solution to the security and device compatibility issues surrounding BYOD?

No, and in some cases MDM for BYOD can even be overkill. Businesses interested in improving mobile productivity and security should ask themselves if it’s the whole device they’re interested in managing or simply the enterprise apps, data, and connections to the network. There are alternatives to MDM that accomplish many of the same goals, and offer complementary capabilities.

An alternative, complementary solution would be an intelligent Mobile Virtual Private Network (mVPN). This combines the benefits of MDM with improved security and resilient connectivity for enabled devices. Through that, organisations can exert policy-based controls based on business needs such as access control by user, device, network or application.

Crucially it offers a flexible approach to securing a mixed device environment whilst also giving these devices a stronger more resilient connection. That’s the kind of benefit that speaks directly to what mobility is about – being more productive.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the other solutions out there that businesses need to know about when creating its BYOD policy?

You want your workers to be productive and able to work from anywhere, and BYOD is one strategy of many. MDM is a great technology for enabling IT to support BYOD, but with a multitude of solutions on the market, each with their own strengths, it’s easy to be lead astray by jargon or the acronym of the month.

Rather than starting with a specific technology and then looking for use cases to fit it, enterprises should invest time up front to discover what their real needs are. Then they can seek out solutions or a combination there-of, that meet those needs.

After interviewing users and consulting with the business and technology stakeholders, it may be the case that an enterprise’s true needs for managing a BYOD deployment may be met with something other than just a traditional MDM. The solution will be unique to each organisation, but should at the least take into account the following:

  • the breadth of platform support
  • application compatibility and performance
  • baseline security requirements
  • the differences between the various operating systems
  • user tolerance for change
  • regulatory requirements
  • all the overheads in terms of implementing, managing and maintaining such a system

And, of course, the overall business objective of your BYOD program to begin with.

Jim Haviland, CSO of Vox Mobile told us that COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled) was the best system to enable mobile workers. What do you think about COPE and is there a more effective option for businesses?

From a corporate liability standpoint, corporate ownership and a lenient personal use policy can secure the corporations interests in the event that devices are lost or relationships sour.

For the most part though, what’s important isn’t so much ownership, as it is management (both of the people and the devices). In a well-run organisation, there should be no functional difference between COPE and BYOD. Either approach, properly implemented, should enable buy-in from everyone involved.

From our experience in the market, the most crucial element is still the security and connectivity of each application, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter what kind of device that is on, or who owns it.”

Lastly, how do you think BYOD will evolve in 2015? What trends in BYOD do you expect to emerge?

“In tech especially it’s tempting to respond to an increase in technology, with more technology… but that’s not a long-term solution. The pace of change and increasing adoption of mobile devices is not going to abate and BYOD will continue to cause headaches for companies that are approaching this on a per-device basis.

Issues like jail-broken devices, unknown form-factors and OS, loss and theft and working around MDM controls are some of the BYOD challenges that will perpetually plague IT.

In order to future proof against the challenges from BYOD, COPE or other emergent mobility strategies, companies need to build a dialog with their user community and invest in solutions that focus on solving real user problems and do real user enablement (transparency, app stability, ease of use, etc).

Mobile workers need to be able to perform their jobs efficiently and securely and technology should be an enabler not a barrier for this. Happy, productive users don’t tend to rebel against IT controls and that’s one key route to managing change.”