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Mobile devices tax unprepared IT groups

Many organizations lack procedures and products needed to secure and manage mobility

By , Network World
April 15, 2009 04:19 PM ET

Network World - Companies expect to support a growing range of smartphones and mobile employees -- but their mobile infrastructure lacks key elements to do so efficiently and cost-effectively, new research finds.

Trends indicate that mobile messaging and other applications are increasingly important to companies. But many organizations don't have in place the procedures and products needed to secure and manage mobility, and to minimize costly downtime, according to Osterman Research's survey of 125 IT decision-makers.

The report was sponsored by Zenprise, a company that sells an application to automate the management and troubleshooting of mobile devices. (The company recently extended its mobile management to Windows Mobile handhelds.)

Survey respondents were from companies of various sizes and vertical industries. The average size was 15,000 employees. (A copy of the report is available online. Registration is required.)

Based on the online survey results, Osterman predicts the percentage of employees with company-supplied mobile devices will rise from 23% in 2008, to 30% in 2009, and to 46% by the end of 2011.

Research in Motion's BlackBerry and Microsoft's Windows Mobile are by far the dominant mobile platforms for companies, and will continue to be so. Respondents were asked which mobile device currently is used most often for work purposes: 56% named the BlackBerry, 19% Windows Mobile, and10% Palm Treo. The iPhone was named by 5%.

In addition, the survey found that 82% of respondents supported BlackBerry devices in 2008, and 66% supported Windows Mobile. But Apple iPhone use is growing dramatically: 20% said they supported iPhones in 2008, and 44% said they will support them in 2009. Symbian-based mobile devices, though still a small number overall, also will grow this year: 14% of respondents say they'll be supporting these devices, up from 10% in 2008.

Both sets of data indicate an increasingly heterogeneous mobile enterprise, with the attendant complexity of securing and managing it, according to the Osterman report. It's likely that enterprises will turn to a range of software tools for doing so, or turn to emerging hosted services for these tasks, according to the report.

On the end-user front, mobile users tend to be those with specific, high value job functions. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said their technical senior managers use mobile messaging devices; 78% said non-technical senior managers carry them. About two out of three respondents named non-sales traveling employees, mid-level technical managers and mobile sales staff as device users in their companies.

Given this user profile, the survey respondents were asked to judge the business impact of mobile messaging downtime: 8% said the impact would be critical, and 27% said serious. Another 47% said there would be "some impact" from such downtime.

Downtime for BlackBerry users in the survey, and the related impact on employee productivity and decision-making, varies widely, the report found. For example, at the extremes, 14% reported zero downtime during a typical month, and 17% reported 31 to 60 minutes of downtime. More typically, 34% said they have up to 15 minutes each month, and 21% from 16 to 30 minutes. "…We found that the typical organization experiences a mean of 29 minutes of downtime per month in their BlackBerry environment," the authors wrote.

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