Business Applications as a Service (BAaaS)

Moving business apps into the cloud carries big benefits

The rise and rise of the as-a-Service (XaaS) model continues. The various models based around the XaaS approach are all forecast to continue growing rapidly as organizations go on taking advantage of the increased flexibility, lower CAPEX and on-demand nature of the service. Gartner predicts that Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) will grow at a CAGR of 41.3 per cent through 2016, while Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) will hit 27.7 per cent CAGR in the same period. The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market will grow at 19.5 per cent CAGR in that time too, demonstrating how significant the cloud delivery of IT services has become.

XaaS is about making life easier for the customer while giving the provider greater flexibility. Where previously software licenses were bought and long-term contracts entered into, today organizations want and need to be more agile. Utilizing IT services on-demand means that businesses can deploy services as needed, quickly, securely and cost-effectively, and the cloud has enabled this change in mentality. It has helped to create a more business-centric IT culture, where companies and organizations really do get to have IT on their own terms.

Beyond software and infrastructure

As every mobile user knows, this is the era of the app. Cloud delivery of our favourite films, music, games, magazines and books direct to our smartphones or tablets is now entirely second nature, and it has almost become hard to remember the world before it. So just as we source our personal apps on demand from the cloud, doesn’t it now make sense that we do the same thing with business applications?

Business Applications as a Service (BAaaS) is well set to become the next big thing in app delivery this year. As companies continue needing to cut costs wherever possible, shifting certain business applications into the cloud and utilizing them on an on-demand basis helps to remove the CAPEX typically involved in purchasing business services, and also reduces OPEX as you go along. Companies today often find that processes and requirements change on a continuous basis, meaning purchasing business applications outright can become a zero-sum game or even a loss-maker. Organization and end-user needs are always evolving, and new functionality is often required at short notice.

So just as Software as a Service began life delivering business applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Human Resource Management (HRM) tools on demand and via the cloud, so the BAaaS model will evolve to deliver other key applications like Business Intelligence (BI), security tools, plant control and business premises management apps – it’s the next logical step in this technology shift.

Why so popular?

In addition to the OPEX and CAPEX benefits, BAaaS tools can be used from any device, whenever and wherever the end-user wants. With so many personal apps delivered through the cloud to mobile devices today, end-users are perfectly familiar using the internet to get the apps they need. So there is no reason why this should not extend to the workplace. There’s also a shorter learning curve to be had because of this end-user familiarity.

Delivering business apps in this way also makes the upgrade process far easier. Organizations work with their BAaaS partner to establish the terms of engagement, the BAaaS partner then takes care of all updates and upgrades to apps. No additional hardware, software or capacity upgrades are required, even when scaling up the user base. It is a model of simplicity.

The changing nature of the CIO

The BAaaS shift also has major implications for the CIO and the IT department. With the role of the CIO changing into that of a business-critical one, the benefits of BAaaS can help make the transition simpler. With budgets remaining tight, the pressure is on the CIO to do more with less – their focus must become more strategic and they have to deliver commercially impactful initiatives – by being innovative, agile and prepared to adopt new technologies.

Every stakeholder today expects more. They expect more apps delivered more quickly and more reliably, wherever they are, while ensuring that the network remains more secure. This means customers, partners, employees, fellow C-level executives – the modern CIO now has a very different role. The IT department has become both the engine room of a company and also a business unit in itself which must innovate, think strategically and drive the organization forward. BAaaS is the latest cloud service which can help make the CIO’s mission easier and more relevant.

Gordon

The Cognitive era is here as Devices get Smarter

Devices are getting smarter, faster and increasingly cognitive. All around us we see the continuing rapid evolution of electronic devices, both mobile and fixed, into the next generation of tools that will help us live our lives differently.

As smart devices go on advancing in their capabilities, it’s fair to project that devices will eventually advise us on how we dress, what we eat for dietary requirements, our physical fitness and more – there is even a smart toothbrush available now which communicates with an app on your smartphone to advise you on optimum plaque removal when brushing.

We are now in the era of apps that think and interact with their users. Think of voice-activated apps like those which help us navigate our smartphones to which we give specific commands – and applications are only going to continue gaining intelligence. So as devices and apps evolve, so too the operating system needs to evolve with them. Which brings us to cognition-as-a-service (CaaS).

CaaS will be the platform that enables these increasingly intelligent apps. CaaS is effectively the next generation of the Semantic Web – an operating system which is capable of communicating with intelligent devices and apps on their terms.

Powered by the cloud

The truth is that within a couple of years we will probably no longer be talking about ‘the cloud’ as we currently understand it or as if it is something new or advanced. The cloud will simply be ‘IT’ – because so much of what we do will be hosted in and take place in the cloud.

An example of a cognitive app to come would be your daily calendar – your calendar which you use via your smartphone or tablet will effectively operate as your P.A. and will manage your time and activities like a secretary. However, the intelligence itself that powers this cognitive app will be provided by a cognitive platform which lives in the cloud.

These cloud-based cognitive platforms will be the true intelligence that fuels this next generation of apps. The cloud is where the Internet of Things (IoT) lives, and the IoT and its vast array of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication will also be powered by this intelligent platform.

Everything in your daily life is set to become smarter. Phones, TV, the connected car, the smart home, the networked fridge that restocks your groceries without you having to open its door – not to mention wearable technology like smart glasses, clothing and watches. All of these will be powered by intelligence delivered by APIs through the cloud as apps and everyday things grow to be cognitive.

Examples are already in place around the world. There is a new artificial intelligence which can read CAPTCHA images online, while e-health is being powered forward by projects which deliver virtual healthcare assistants through the cloud. These are just a couple of examples which predict the need for platforms that can support more intelligent apps and manage them automatically.

Yet another XaaS model

The growth in popularity of the as-a-Service (XaaS) model cannot be overstated. XaaS brings multiple benefits in both CAPEX and OPEX terms, since it carries with it far lower set-up costs than traditional IT product based solutions and its on-demand nature means that running costs are set on the user’s terms.

XaaS, and in time CaaS, will continue to deliver the same benefits. This continuing cost-control model delivers a more managed total cost of ownership (TCO) and reduces risk overall.

So why CaaS?

What CaaS delivers is that next step that the Semantic Web didn’t quite reach – it will enable APIs in the cloud to operate intelligently and empower developers to use quickly and easily. CaaS providers will be cheap, scalable and accessible, and what makes CaaS so different and powerful is that the cognitive qualities are ingrained in the operating system itself – meaning that so too are all the apps on it. The scope that CaaS presents is huge, bringing cognitive, highly intelligent and intuitive apps to users on a global scale.

The security implications

Because CaaS will be cloud-delivered, the nature of security threats surrounding it will continue to change too. Hackers and phishers, always looking for new ways to extract valuable data, remain creative and go on developing new angles and methods of attack.

So while the CaaS era will bring numerous benefits to mobile users, security professionals are going to need to be as mindful as ever of the threats to data breaches and data loss. API keys can of course be useful tools to the enterprising hacker, and denials of service and account hijacking are both hazards that exist via this route. By securing the platform and working as hard as possible to close potential loopholes, the era of the CaaS next generation operating system powering the apps, devices and habits of the future can be one that will create new industries and new digital giants that will grow from unexpected quarters.

Original Publication

Devices, Devices, Devices everywhere – it’s time for next generation “Mobile Device Management as a Service”

As mobile devices continue to increase in both variety and number, it seems to me it is a good time to revisit mobile device management (MDM) strategy. MDM has been around since mobile devices came to the fore, but because of the rapidly changing nature of the mobile landscape, it has had a hard time keeping pace.

A quick definition; MDM policy and tools secure, monitor and manage mobile devices throughout organizations and across various platforms, networks and operators. However as mobile devices have become ubiquitous, both at enterprise and consumer level, there has come a need for MDM to evolve too, to offer greater control and confidence to organizations without compromising all the benefits of the modern mobile user experience.

So what is it that has changed the landscape the most? Well, quite simply, it is the sheer number of devices. The mobile experience is no longer simply about a phone – it’s now smartphones of numerous types and operating systems, tabletsphabletsultrabooks, wearable technology and much more besides. This is the new ‘mobile’, this is now how big mobile is. Over two-thirds of people say they use personal mobile devices in the workplace today. This is what MDM has to cope with.

more devices, more data, more risks

So as mobility takes hold in the enterprise, and more and more critical or sensitive corporate data is at risk of being transported into the public domain by accident or design, the need for a comprehensive MDM approach becomes essential. Global companies want to design and implement global security policies that keep their data as free from threat as possible, but how do you achieve this in the face of such massive mobile device proliferation?

The threats are clear. While it is not really all that long ago that malware, Trojan horses and viruses were considered the chief menace to corporate data, mobility has today brought with it a whole raft of new, more subtle, dangers. Lost or stolen mobile devices and insecure communications now rank high on the list of information security professionals’ worries, and without the right tools and policies in place can be more damaging. Organizations can only realistically secure and control the threats that they know about – mobile devices in the workplace are more difficult to track and maintain in the enterprise environment than inward-bound attacks.

So the main threat is as simple as staff members using their personal devices to access corporate data – with or without their knowledge or intent – and then taking it outside the network. The traditional walled garden is now so compromised as to be obsolete. Nine out of ten executives recently confessed to accessing corporate data on their own mobiles – so how do organizations deal with this fast-growing problem?

everything needs to be managed

Everything is mobile and everything needs to be managed. This is the premise from which to start. Smartphones, tablets and phablets in the workplace, ultrabooks as replacements for traditional laptops, and while not so common just yet, smartwatches and other wearable technology like Google Glass will soon enter the workplace and fall under the remit of the IT department. So an organization’s MDM strategy needs to be robustwide-reaching and most of all progressive – it needs to be able to grow with the rapidly changing landscape.

Furthermore, the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its accompanying machine-to-machine (M2M) communications will also play a part. The IoT means yet more mobile devices, all communicating over the network and all in need of management. The connected car is now a reality and gives mobile employees a new workplace, while other M2M devices that can also store data will need to be managed. So organizations need to address all of these developments, both cost-effectively and efficiently.

on-premise or in the cloud?

Traditionally, MDM policy forming and implementation would be done at ground level, on-premises, so that the IT department could be involved in each step of the process. However, a comprehensive MDM strategy has many bases to cover, and with more mobile devices than ever entering the corporate environment, even the most efficient IT department could find itself stretched too thin. There is basic encryption of devices required, protection against data breach should a device be stolen or lost. Corporate app stores are gaining popularity as a means of controlling the applications that users can install on devices, but more devices with more operating systems again means more complexity here.

So in the event that in-house resources are insufficient to cover MDM on premises, we turn again to the cloud. The benefits to enterprise of cloud-based solutions are well-documented, but when it comes to MDM, the cloud model brings with it the big benefit of lower set-up fees – CAPEX – but also lower ongoing OPEX as well. Cloud-based MDM – or in fact as it is becoming known, MDM as a Service – can give organizations scalable mobile device management on-demand, so they can use it as much or as little as they need to. As mobile devices continue to evolve and end-users continue to lap them up, the flexible MDM in the cloud solution, provided by a specialist partner, looks like offering a highly desirable way ahead.

Original Publication  

 

Taming the multichannel customer service monster

Today’s consumer is a much more expectant, much more demanding beast than in times gone by – and the reason for this is technology. The consumerization of IT and mobility have combined to give people a level of control and power over their activities that they’ve never previously been able to enjoy. And one of the by-products of this has been an increased expectancy of customer service quality.

The modern customer – and indeed the modern company – today has more ways of communicating available to them than ever. We have the traditional telephone network for voice calls, but we also have SMS messages and multiple online tools such as email, web forms, chat, instant messengers and social media applications. A common consumer perception is that voice never really gets you very far – and be honest, nobody in the world actually enjoys sitting on hold listening to irritating music and product pitches – so companies have had to start thinking differently.

This means utilizing all those other communications tools in an effective way – and it is a tricky balancing act to get right. Apps are increasingly becoming the way that end-users interact and so they expect their customer service to come their way on their terms. The challenge of delivering a multi-channel customer experience, a genuinely fully-integrated, seamless customer service, is a big one.

the journey’s destination – the fully integrated, seamless customer service

So with customers expecting and demanding better service and more personal attention, why, in this multi-channel environment, isn’t it being delivered?  The opportunity to provide a genuine cross-channel customer experience is there, and it has never been more important to retain good customers and attract new ones through a strong brand and reputation for high quality service.

In a highly competitive world, organizations are focused on product innovation, why are they not taking the next step to think to roll out an integrated customer service suite at the same time?

The figures are pretty convincing in favor of offering an enhanced customer service experience. 86% of consumers say they are prepared to pay more for a better customer experience, while just 1% says companies consistently meet their expectations. Poor customer experience is the biggest cause of customer churn, with 89% of people admitting that they are happy to switch to a competitor due to poor customer experience.

This is the mobile age and companies are faced with a generation of end-users who have no real concept of things like fixed-line phones and sitting on hold waiting for the next available agent. They want their interaction in real time, the same way they have it with friends, family and peers online. When 50% of smartphone users say they would prefer to use a mobile customer service application to try and resolve a customer service problem before picking up the phone and calling the contact center, you know that there is both an issue and an opportunity here.

the way ahead – the Cloud and analytics

40% of organizations have stated that ‘complexity’ is the biggest challenge to their deploying enhanced, multichannel customer service offerings – it used to be ‘organizational structure’ – but cloud computing is helping to make a seamless contact center and customer service operation a more achievable reality. Business intelligence and analytics tools allow organizations to both track and monitor customer datato improve their experience, while the Cloud also enables social media engagement in real time like never before.

The cloud makes it easier than ever to bring the right customer service people together with the right customers, on the customer’s terms. The ability to include customer service processes and systems within the cloud enables more tools – organizations can communicate via Twitter, Facebook and other social apps – but it must be integrated, or risk giving the customer further frustration.

The future of customer service is undoubtedly in the cloud, and intelligent analytics will enable organizations to keep their offering fresh and their customers content. These analytics are particularly useful for government bodies and companies in the financial, health and insurance industries, all of which are subject to regulatory changes and challenges.

70% of businesses plan to include social media as part of their customer service offering by mid-2014, while 55% of customers expect customer service via social media. Customers who engage and interact with companies via social media spend 20 to 40% more with those companies than other customers. The proof points are becoming undeniable, the need for a joined-up customer service provision across multiple platforms and channels indisputable, and it is the cloud which will deliver this.

Original Publication

 

Seven technology predictions for 2014

The year 2014 will be where current trends will accelerate the transformation already underway in how we consume information and do business and live. Organisations will need to evaluate their information strategy to take advantage of the emerging opportunities.

Here are seven trends to consider in the New Year:

Trend # 1 – the era of personal cloud

The cloud has exploded in popularity over the past few years, as companies exhaust backup, storage, network, security, and management systems. Consumer awareness of cloud storage is now increasing and usage is following suit.

Despite concerns that many industries have about cloud storage ability and their willingness to keep information secure, consumers will have little choice but to keep more information on these systems as opposed to their hard drives.

The push for more personal cloud technologies will shift toward services and away from devices. As mobile applications crowd the market, personal cloud services will become the new hub for content.

The risk for organisations is that being a consumer and being an employee is separate, but will the use of personal cloud be? Will someone taking a Friday off to work from home save documents to their personal cloud, which has different security measures to the organisations cloud, and put at risks the secrets of the new client pitch or new product development?

For 2014: Consider how personal and organisational cloud will interact for your business. Could they be at loggerheads before you have time to prepare your policies and inform your employees accordingly?

Trend # 2 – biometric authentication to replace passwords

Long gone are those days where a single password acted as a secure means of authentication. Today, a basic password takes minutes, if not seconds to break through. A string of characters can no longer keep your accounts and devices secure.

When was the last time you created a new password? As you were typing it in did a bar on the right hand side tell you whether it was weak, medium or strong? How many upper case letters or numerals did you include? Did I use the dog’s name or my favourite summer holiday spot for my internet banking password?

We are in the age where each and every person needs a little black book for their infinite passwords. But what happens if we lose the book?

The rapid proliferation of new devices has created additional security requirements for organisations attempting to increase its presence in the online market.

For enterprises that have not revisited their authentication strategies in several years, it may be time to take a fresh look. As identity becomes the driving force behind new security paradigms, biometric authentication will become the new practice as fingerprint and eye retinal scans become a part of our everyday activity.

For 2014: Be prepared! Adopt a security strategy built on advanced authentication techniques that will manage user access. Encourage regular password updates and educate your employees on what a strong password looks like. No dog names allowed.

Trend # 3 – out with the old and in with the new: embedded technology

Embedded systems are part of our daily lives. Can you imagine your life today, without a smart phone for communication?

2014 will see an uptake in embedded technology as the pressure will be on to add more intelligent functions into devices. The technology that initially drove mobile phones is now driving the adoption of smart devices. Touchscreens, smaller gadgets, and high performance sensors are just some of these innovations.

Wearable technology is a trend that will embrace the workforce. It is already starting. There will be more productivity apps in wearables as medical professionals begin using devices that overlay images on goggles. Google Glass is just the beginning, with other inventions to monitor, anticipate and feedback, well on their way.

For 2014: Anticipate the evolution of everyday products as technology becomes cheaper, smaller and more energy efficient. Technology will lead to automated homes, intelligent automobiles, smart buildings, and ubiquitous measure / control systems. How can your business embrace and jump on board?

Trend # 4 – go mobile or go home

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend has completely changed the way businesses work. Executives using devices such as smartphones and tablets to access the corporate network is quickly becoming ubiquitous with an uptrend in remote working.

According to a report by Gartner, 70 per cent of mobile professionals will conduct their work on personal smart devices by 2018. The increase in mobile devices will challenge technology and finance departments as they try to manage mobile devices. But what type of personal smart device? Where are the tablet / smart phone headed? We are at the beginning of what the future world of personal smart devices might look like. If left unmanaged, BYOD can lead to data leaks and loss of control, which could potentially result in legal penalties.

With BYOD, the genie is out of the bottle as users expect to be online in more places at high speeds and with robust security levels. With the right solutions in place, BYOD can create new exciting opportunities.

For 2014: Create a clear policy around BYOD strategies that encompasses enabling secure, trusted, and convenient access. Be sure to implement a security model that has minimal impact on an employee’s experience, whilst maintaining the same security standards that your organisation upholds.

Trend # 5 – do more with less: the future is in M2M technology

Machine-to-machine’ (M2M) communication has given businesses the capability to monitor, control, or manage the operation of remote equipment. Today, M2M services have entered a renaissance period, playing a significant role as new products communicate with each other wirelessly without any human intervention.

This deregulation in the market will eventually garner new opportunities making it possible to map and monitor an entire system of remote hubs which could be anything from a building to a vehicle, to a fully armed security system.

The Internet of Things will enable devices to communicate with each other, while working out problems without interference. For instance, an M2M device will be able to automatically control the temperature of an air conditioner, while switching it on or off when required. These core capabilities will reduce error, save time, increase efficiency, and generally optimise the performance of any physical system.

For 2014: Maintain a strong and clear position in the market by developing plans and procedures that incorporate M2M technologies NOW rather than later. Prepare your organisation for change.

Trend # 6 – the new age of apps

With the continued growth and inescapable presence of BYOD, individuals have the capability of accessing all sorts of applications and information they need using their own devices anytime and anywhere.

Consumers are more technologically savvy and flock to app stores linked to their mobile platforms and devices while companies are investing in apps almost every day.

From 2014 onwards, there will be an app for almost everything, from everyday bills to mobile banking and much more. Something as simple as karaoke, which used to be entertained in restaurants is now a downloadable app. The same applies to music, where consumers can listen to unlimited songs using the appropriate app. This innovation will continue to increase, with the app market expected to reach $38 billion in just two years.

Propriety apps will become common, as more and more employees create and develop apps that support their business.

For 2014: Consider individual user’s needs for mobility, and get involved in the discussion. Organisations need to adapt their digital marketing campaigns to fit the small screens and the evolution of the app world.

Trend # 7 – the social dimension where everything is shared

We have reached a new communication age where social media is well established. Today, technology has enabled us to profile any individual or business by simply tapping into the material available online on social networks. Facebook itself has approximately 1.19 billion active users and roughly 507 million daily active mobile users, while twitter has roughly 554 million active registered users, with approximately 58 million tweets a day.

With the popularity of social networks it becomes easier to share information across the globe with a simple click of a button. This takes on a new level of urgency as organisations shift from an information age to a communication age. Facebook itself revealed what is known as “frictionless sharing”, which automatically posts updates on your page from everything you listen to, read or watch.

The concept of 3D printing is another trend that will explode the marketplace in 2014 and will assist in local and custom fabrication. New competition will enter the market using 3D Printers to challenge business models. Users will take advantage of new paradigms in replicating products, designs, and devices.

For 2014: Be careful with what information you disclose and to whom you disclose this too. Businesses need to pay close attention to ensure that all information or objects shared are subject to copyright or is trade market protected.

2014 will see an uptake in the adoption of smart technologies, innovative devices, and a plethora of cloud applications. With new technologies seemingly always on the horizon, keeping a hold over IT systems is becoming increasingly complicated. It is therefore important that businesses embrace the new trends and prepare for the opportunities ahead.

Original Publication

 

Technology predictions for 2014 & beyond

predicting technology futures – what’s in store for 2014?

Original publication

2013 has seen a number of technologies enjoy varying levels of success and growth, with mobile devices, cloud computing and enterprise app stores all continuing to gain momentum. As I have written about throughout the year on this blog, these technologies have all had that disruptive business model impact which makes them popular and shakes up the existing landscape.

As we approach the end of 2013, I see no reason to expect 2014’s emerging technologies and trends to be any different. So what do we have to look forward to?

wearable technology and absolute mobility

Mobile everywhere and mobile for everything. 2014 will be the year that mobile is ubiquitous, smarter, faster and our reliance on mobile connectivity becomes absolute.

2013 saw the emergence of bring your own device (BYOD) as a mainstream concept, with end-users pretty much eschewing the notion of work/life balance and taking their smartphones and tablets into the workplace as a matter of course and taking their work on the move with them, presenting companies with new security challenges. But the trend will continue and 2014 will see users expecting to be online in more places than ever, at high speeds and with more robust security levels.

This increased mobility will continue to be driven forward by the latest advances in mobile devices, with wearable technology to the fore. The announcement that Burberry’s chief executive has just jumped ship to join Apple is a good indicator of how technology and fashion will merge over the coming year.Google glasssmartwatches and other wearable devices will all connect to the internet and each other through the Cloud like never before. And speaking of the connected planet. . .

the Internet of things goes mainstream

The internet is dead, long live the internet of things. There are now more networked devices and machines on the planet than there are people and 2014 will see still more devices, appliances and vehicles come online and begin communicating with each other.

The internet as we know it has already changed the world and many aspects of our daily lives. It has benefited businesses, individuals and nations, often helping to transform the way governments deliver education, health and social services and making information more democratically available. The internet of everything addresses the next generation of networked devices, with machine-to-machine (M2M) communications powering new ways of doing everything. Right now our phones and tablets are our most common networked devices, but the internet of things will see the networking of cars, homes, appliances, televisions, meters, indeed most electrical and electronic appliances and devices. There is even a company in the Netherlands that has helped a farmer to connect his cows.

Forecasts vary, but recent research projects that by 2020 there will be 75 billion ‘things’ connected to the internet and communicating with one another. 2014 will be the year that everything being networked goes mainstream.

hybrid cloud and XaaS model

2014 will see IT architectures continue to evolve and bring greater flexibility to companies and end-users. In previous blogs I have written about the future impact of cloud computing on various IT disciplines, notably procurementstorage and business continuity and even the role of the traditional CIO.

The cloud will continue to transform throughout the coming year, and the direction it will take will be that of hybrid cloud. Companies with private cloud architectures in place should be ready to embrace personal cloud and make the shift to the hybrid model. The hybrid approach gives organizations greater operational flexibility and optimized costs without compromising security. Network performance is improved too.

The ‘as a service’ (XaaS) model will continue to grow in popularity as well, as organizations adopt its agility and flexibility benefits while also recognizing that the OPEX model carries major advantages over the traditional CAPEX, investment-up-front approach.

software-defined architecture

Software-defined architecture will also come to the fore in 2014 – a practice whereby the software or the application defines the purpose of the device itself. This can be a storage device or a server, or a personal device such as the music boxes or wristband and apps that tracks how you sleep, move and eat—then helps you use that information to feel your best. The function defines the form.

The software-defined approach can help revolutionize the way we program, use and interact with devices because it makes them completely customizable. Devices of any kind will become defined by their apps, making them directly programmable, more agile, centrally managed and configurable and giving us greater control.

share, share and share again

End-users are now, thanks to the rise and rise of social media, so used to sharing that it is second nature. There are now 1.15 billion active Facebook users and over 288 million active Twitter users, all sharing thoughts, information, news, opinions and more, all the time. There have been more than 16 billion photos shared on Instagram. And this is just the beginning.

3-D printing is one area where the sharing of ideas and designs is going to take off in a big way in 2014 and beyond. Sales of 3-D printers are forecast to grow by 75 per cent in 2014, as the technology takes hold in the mainstream. 3-D printing could have a massive impact on many industries, not least the manufacturing sector. It represents a new way of sharing, with companies no longer needing to produce things the same way. For example one company or individual can come up with a design or bright idea one day and that design can be shared and copied tomorrow. Manufacturing, product development, design and prototypes – all of these disciplines could be hugely affected. This does of course present a challenge similar to that faced by the music and movie industries; when you have moved from the physical world to the virtual, and people are so used to sharing, how do you protect intellectual property? Innovative smart machines may be the solution to that. But that’s for another blog post.

Happy 2014.

Original Publication

Six tips for mobile device management security

There has been a lot of discussion this year about the increasing influx of consumer devices being used for both professional and personal purposes. Many organisations are feeling a little overwhelmed as they try to work out appropriate security levels and device management boundaries. When you take into consideration all the platform and application updates chewing through corporate bandwidth, plus the potential for rogue applications and malware to gain illicit access to company data, there are many headaches for security managers to deal with.

Here are six tips to help get the efficient and secure management of mobile devices under control:

1. Have a strong mobile policy

This may seem like an obvious tip, but there is often a clear disconnect between employees and employers’ expectations of how consumer devices will be used in the enterprise. Research from IDC found that not only were workers using their devices at twice the rate, they also tended to think employers were far more permissive of the use of consumer devices than they actually were. It is therefore very important to have a mobile use policy clearly defined to avoid these kinds of misunderstandings.

A mobile usage policy is a framework that defines who the users are and what devices, platforms and applications they can and can’t use. Enterprises must clearly define policies around reimbursement for services and what applications users can access via personal devices, along with clear guidance on who controls the data on devices.

2. Create an inventory of assets

How can you be assured of the security of employees’ mobile devices if you don’t know how many are out there and what they are? Implementing a robust and regularly updated inventory management system is a vital part of any mobile device management system. While many businesses do have an inventory of fixed and wireless assets, the majority of them are not updated and validated on a regular basis, leading to the potential for security issues to slip through the cracks via unknown devices or inappropriate usage. Businesses with accurate inventories have much clearer insight into their telecommunication environments and as such, more reliable information on which to base policy decisions.

3. Ensure proper configuration of devices

The sheer number of different devices and platforms out there can make the configuration of devices a challenging process. Factor in entry level handsets, smartphones, tablets with different operating systems and employees working in numerous different locations and the issue becomes even more complex. However, if a device is enrolled with a mobile device management server, a configuration profile defined and managed by IT admin can be implemented, enabling the device to interact with enterprise systems. An appropriate level of encryption can also be added to any commands coming from the server to ensure that settings cannot be altered without proper authorisation.

4. Implement appropriate security

Despite the influx of consumer devices into the workplace, many organisations haven’t implemented stronger security controls in response, leaving them at risk of security breaches or loss of sensitive data. Data encryption is a powerful piece of the mobile security puzzle and yet many businesses do not use it on a regular basis. In addition to implementing data encryption, enterprises need to inform workers about the risks of failing to comply with security protocols – there is a good chance that they are unaware of the risks associated with using their personal devices for professional purposes.

5. Regulate application protocols

Taking into consideration that there are thousands upon thousands of mobile applications out there, strong protocols need to be instituted for the deployment of any new applications and the management of existing applications. Malware is steadily creeping into the app world, so even applications from the app store need to be checked before they are allowed into the enterprise. Such malicious applications can take over the mobile device and operate in the background without the user knowing, searching for sensitive information such as passwords or banking details.

6. Provide training and end-user support

A relatively small percentage of the overall functionality of the average mobile device is used on a regular basis. With devices becoming more and more sophisticated, users could end up massively under-utilising all the functions that are at their disposal. As a result, most enterprises would benefit from providing user training, including how to set up email, device customisation, application selection and usage, understanding browser capabilities, using instant messaging, and mobile data services and understanding device functions and shortcuts. Support and training can increase worker efficiency and also reduce security risks, as employees better understand how their devices work.

Managing employee mobility doesn’t need to be a nightmare. With the right systems put into place, employees and employers alike can reap the benefits of mobility.

Original Publication