IT Departments Face Rising "Mobile Dilemma"

They present security risks and they aren't always supported by the systems IT departments put in place, but as smartphones become more popular among end users, something's got to give.

By Michelle Megna | Posted Sep 16, 2009
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With the proliferation of hot new smartphones such as the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre comes a dilemma for enterprise IT: employees are insisting on using their favorite mobile devices for business, even if their companies don't support those devices and can't secure them.

And yet, most IT staff want to accommodate their fellow employees -- not to mention the executives who want these devices.

That's the key finding in a report out today by Vanson Bourne, a technology market research firm, which surveyed IT decision makers of 300 companies in the U.S. and Europe about issues related to using devices such as the iPhone, Palm Pre and Android on corporate networks.

The report, "The Device Dilemma," which was commissioned by the mobile management firm Good Technology, reveals that the demand for support for new types of mobile devices in the enterprise is on the rise.

Nearly 80 percent of companies reported an increase in the number of employees wanting to use their own devices in the workplace in the last six to 12 months, says the report. These smartphones include the iPhone, Palm Pre and devices based on Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian mobile operating systems.

Apple's iPhone has the most fans, with 82 percent of respondents in the U.S. and U.K. getting requests for iPhone support.

The report comes at a time when Apple, while not courting the enterprise per se, is nibbling away at corporate market share as it rolls out modest improvements in security features with updates to the iPhone OS.

A recent Forrester research report said iPhone 3.0 helps to address many of the security, calendar and functionality concerns that IT formerly had with the iPhone.

Key among these enhancements are the option to require VPN login where needed; fixes to earlier ActiveSync calendar synchronization issues, and added CalDAV support; encrypted device configuration profiles that are prevented from being deleted; and encrypted backup to the desktop through iTunes on PCs and Macs.

"The iPhone has changed the game in the enterprise," Brian Bogosian, CEO of Good Technology, said in a statement. "IT managers want to give employees the freedom to use the newest, most capable devices, but until now security and manageability challenges have made that problematic."

Have it your way -- with a catch

Despite 28 percent of enterprises polled reporting that they had experienced a data breach because of an unauthorized device, a fair amount of IT staff want to accommodate the desire of their co-workers who want to use their personal handsets for work tasks.

Forty-four percent of respondents -- IT decision makers at large companies in the U.S. and U.K. -- said they would allow users to choose their own devices if they could be assured of security and standard configuration.

As a result, mobile management companies are pushing out updates to their platforms and services to address the needs of IT staff faced with patchwork wireless device use issues. Read the rest at InternetNews.com.

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