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Mobile Device Management Just One Answer to BYOD Issue

Over the past decade, the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) concept has become popular with insurance organizations and employees alike. Finding the perfect balance among privacy, security, and budgetary concerns presents complex choices for organizations. BYOD benefits include reduced equipment costs, increased employee satisfaction and efficiency, and decreased IT staff burdens.

BYOD can be good for an organization’s bottom line, but the most obvious risk with is that companies may be opening another gateway with potential security vulnerabilities that isn’t adequately managed by the IT staff. Increased security monitoring can be expensive, and in this day and age, IT investments need to demonstrate a clear and measurable return.

Gartner predicts by 2017 half of all employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes. Ensuring data security between these mobile devices and corporate networks will require advanced planning. When considering BYOD, organizations frequently evaluate the cost benefits of Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Application Management (MAM) solutions for securing their systems.

MDM and MAM are considered the most popular technologies for enabling secure use of an individual’s smartphone and tablet within the enterprise. These technologies started with different use cases, but their features are beginning to overlap. More vendors are starting to combine the two into a single product.

Though they involve a significant investment, the benefits result in securely allowing employee-owned equipment to connect with corporate networks by completely controlling each device. MDM provides command and control of mobile devices in a model that is similar to managing PCs, and therefore easily understood by IT.

There is a belief that gaining control of every setting on each device is necessary to protect and secure the organization. However, this idea conflicts with the very nature of the device being an extension of someone’s personal life and a secure and convenient bridge between personal and professional activities. The good news is in some cases it is possible to implement secure BYOD initiatives without an intrusive MDM configuration.

Do employees really need their mobile devices to be connected to the internal network in order to be productive? Mobile devices are inherently nothing more than portals to online services with small amounts of information stored on the device itself.

A device that is connected to the Exchange email service may contain corporate contact lists and some cached email attachments, but it is not like a laptop that is logging into the network and gaining unfettered access to a myriad of network services. The mobile device can be configured to only be connected to the individual services for a specific reason such as the Exchange email service or to a website through its browser.

In situations such as these, the major threat with mobile data loss is from stolen or lost devices that can be hacked. Fortunately, there are many free or inexpensive methods for wiping a device remotely once it has been lost, without an MDM. Apple provides a free iOS configuration utility that organizations’ IT groups can use to configure employees phones with an IT-controlled Apple ID for Find My iPhone. To implement this solution, you will of course need to establish policies to govern how this control will be used and communicated.

If little is stored on personal devices, there is little for IT to manage. Many organizations are already using cloud services for even their most sensitive data like CRM and marketing analytics.  Extending these cloud services to personal devices is a more cost effective alternative to MDM.

At that point, the IT team only needs to manage access to services such as email, file storage, company and third-party applications, and programs at the user level instead of the device level, just as they already do for company-owned resources.

Why does all this matter? The balance between privacy, security, and budget does not mean you have to deny your employees’ requests to use their own device.  And it does not mean you have to necessarily transfer the savings into an MDM solution. Consider the real way your employees will use the devices and cheaper alternatives before you make the leap.

Martin Gillespie is director, Mobility Center of Excellence for Salient Commercial Solutions and is responsible for bringing together thought leaders, experts, and resources to create a combination of solutions that can be disseminated to the community to vet ideas, offer strategic and tactical thought leadership, build proof-of concept prototypes, and oversee production delivery that provides benefits to our customers.

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