Mobile devices have revolutionized the way we do business. Their benefits -- from having a phone at all times to the ability to get information from the Web and use some of the hundreds of thousands of available applications -- have made these devices a necessity for millions of people around the world.
These powerful, compact devices are also attracting a lot of negative attention -- millions of mobile devices are lost or stolen every year, and these numbers are expected to swell. It's critical that your organization not only have a mobile device policy in place, but also that you have the ability to remotely manage all your devices, with a mobile management strategy
In fact, many organizations don't have policies for mobile device purchasing. As a result, end users often end up buying their own devices, regardless of the standards or support already in place. This means that whatever you do, you will not only have to determine how to manage mobile devices, but you will also have to deal with Apple iPhones, Google Android devices, BlackBerrys, Windows Mobile devices and possibly the new Windows Phone.
So how do you balance the desire for a better device with the need to protect the information that your users will inevitably store on it?
Plan a mobile management strategy that will provide support for multiple devices but won't break the bank. Short of implementing a full-scale enterprise solution such as Good Mobile Control, Sybase Afaria or Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager, what does that entail? Here are a some tips:
Create an internal device policy for data storage. No matter which device is in use, make sure that users are aware of the information they store on their devices and how important it is to protect.
Implement a device lock policy. All devices support the ability to lock access and require a numeric or alphanumeric password.
Create a device return reward policy. You can easily acquire services such as TrackItBack, which provides stickers uniquely identifying devices and promising rewards for their return.
Implement an encryption policy for critical data. Most devices support some form of encryption. Encryption should be applied both during data transmission and when data is at rest on the device.
Plan a mobile management strategy that will provide support for multiple devices but won't break the bank.
Rely on the device's internal mobile management capabilities to control data wipes. Most devices include support for remote wipes. For example, Apple's MobileMe application offers a control panel to wipe devices that are lost as soon as they link up to a wireless network. Other devices offer similar remote-wipe control features.
Invest in a generic mobile management tool. Users of Microsoft Exchange 2007 or 2010 will find that it supports the remote wipe of almost any device that is linked to its email system. Since email is a must on mobile devices, using a system such as Exchange Server will also help protect data on the devices.
Consider an internal mobile device management tool or a mobile device management service that resides in the cloud. If you find that the generic tools aren't adequately meeting your needs, obtain a more robust and comprehensive mobile management solution. Many of these are designed to manage 100 or more devices; if you have fewer than 100 devices, you can usually obtain a cloud-based mobile device management service that provides the same capabilities.
Mobile devices are here to stay. While acceptable use policies are important, take the time to be proactive with a mobile management strategy. Do what you can to remotely manage the devices on your network to protect yourself and your organization from the damaging effects of a lost or stolen device.
Danielle and Nelson Ruest are IT experts focused on virtualization, continuous service availability and infrastructure optimization. They have written multiple books, including Virtualization: A Beginner's Guide for McGraw-Hill Osborne, and MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-652): Configuring Windows Server Virtualization with Hyper-V for Microsoft Press. Contact them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was first published in August 2010