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The enterprise mobility revolution by the numbers (and the security implications)

By Brian Duckering, senior manager, Endpoint Management and Mobility, Symantec, special to Network World
July 05, 2012 02:50 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Ready or not, the mobile revolution is upon us. Some 59% of respondents to a recent Symantec survey said their companies are now making line-of-business applications accessible to mobile devices. Even more impressive, almost three-fourths -- 71% -- of businesses are looking into implementing a corporate "app store."

Those were just two of the critical data points from a Symantec survey of 6,275 organizations of all sizes in 43 countries. And while mobility is helping organizations keep pace in today's 24/7 business world, the advances come with advanced security risks that need to be addressed.

BACKGROUND: Enterprise smartphone and tablet incursion to grow in 2012

First, the survey findings.

The survey confirmed the key drivers behind the revolution. Specifically, it asked about the most important business benefits companies hope to achieve from mobility. The top answers were a desire for increased efficiency, increased workplace effectiveness and reduced time required to accomplish tasks. Taken together, these represent major business agility gains.

However, any IT manager knows that such expectations of implementing a new technology are rarely ever matched by the results. Impressively though, the survey showed that when it comes to mobility, these expectations have largely been met. For example, nearly three-quarters of businesses surveyed expected to increase efficiency through mobile computing, and a full 73% actually realized that gain.

As further evidence that the mobile revolution is in full swing, respondents said 31% of the IT staff at their organizations are involved in some way with managing mobile computing. This significant investment in resources is also an indication of the challenges IT departments are encountering as they try to balance mobility with other critical focus areas. In fact, nearly half of the organizations who responded to the survey -- 48% -- said they see mobile computing as "somewhat to extremely challenging."

Furthermore, when the survey asked where mobility ranks in terms of IT risk as compared to other current technology trends, it was cited as one of the top three risk areas by 41% of respondents -- more than any other trend or initiative, including public cloud computing, virtualization and Web 2.0. IT departments' top mobile-related concerns include device loss, data leakage, unauthorized access to corporate resources and malware infection.

These top concerns are validated by another recent study, dubbed the Symantec Smartphone Honey Stick Project, in which 50 smartphones were intentionally "lost" after having been prepared with a slew of simulated personal- and corporate-related data and applications. The devices were then monitored to see what happened. Shockingly, 83% of the devices showed attempts to access corporate-related applications or data. This included attempts on roughly 50% of the devices to access a corporate email client, a remote admin app and files titled "HR Salaries" and "HR Cases."

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