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Mitigating the risks of BYOD with mobile application management

By Anil Chakravarthy, senior vice president, Enterprise Security Group, Symantec, special to Network World
September 10, 2012 03:39 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.

Bring-your-own-device is the latest technology trend nipping at the heels of nearly every CIO and CISO. But make no mistake, it is more than just a buzzword; it is a true movement.

The concept is simple: Allow employees to supply their own devices, thereby increasing employee satisfaction and hopefully reducing capital -- and perhaps even operational -- expenditures. Generally, and especially for the purposes of this article, the "device" in BYOD refers to mobile devices, particularly smartphones and tablets.

IN DEPTH: How BYOD has changed the IT landscape

For all its potential benefits, BYOD is without a doubt not the right mobile strategy for every employee in every organization. For that matter, BYOD might not be the right approach for some organizations altogether; the benefits might simply not exist in certain use cases. Also, BYOD does involve relinquishing at least some control over the devices connecting to corporate networks, resources and data. As always, there are concerns when relinquishing any such control.

That said, the concerns surrounding BYOD are much like those involved with driving a car. Are there potential hazards involved with both? Of course there are, but can those hazards be mitigated? Absolutely! In both cases, preparing for the various hazards by being properly equipped with appropriate protections and tools enables one to reap the benefits of these activities without getting banged up.

Proper training, good tires, headlights and seat belts are a few of the preparations needed to operate a vehicle safely. Similarly, there are specific strategies and technologies that can be employed to avoid the hazards frequently associated with BYOD. Of course, there is also always the option to implement BYOD without any accompanying tools and protections. However, like driving a vehicle off a cliff, the hazards will be hard to avoid.

In particular, mobile application management (MAM) presents an intriguing option for preparing for and avoiding the hazards of BYOD. Before analyzing how MAM can be an effective BYOD accident avoidance technology, it is important to acknowledge the three primary, high-level considerations that must be taken into account when it comes to enterprise BYOD implementations. These are:

* To manage or not to manage: When it comes to BYOD, the first question every enterprise must ask is: How much management of user-owned devices connecting to corporate resources does the company want to be involved in?

MORE: A sampling of BYOD user policies

This question is critical because the degree to which an enterprise is involved in managing various aspects of user-owned mobile devices has consequences. For example, a key anticipated benefit of implementing BYOD is often no longer having to fully manage employees' mobile devices. In return, support costs are hopefully reduced. However, this aspiration is obviously negated by electing to completely manage user-owned devices.

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