BYOD Management Tools and Tactics

Like it or not, aware of it or not, your company now has a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) aspect to its mobility program. Employees are bringing in devices as quick as a manufacturer can pop out a new trendy, glitzy, always-on gadget. And that’s not going to stop anytime soon; not ever, actually. You need BYOD management policies and tools.

And just to spice things up (as if you didn’t have enough heartburn over this state of affairs already), employees are bringing their own cloud, too. Your precious heavily guarded company data is now dropped in Dropbox as casually as if it were a home recipe and in other such cloud repositories such as SugarSync, Mozy, MediaFire, as well. And you are supposed to manage and secure all of that.

Fortunately, there are tools to help you although many of them have yet to be forged into a true arsenal fit for serious battle.

“Security, manageability, and support are all major challenges that have yet to be solved on a market scale, said Andy Musliner, chief technology and innovation officer at DMI, technology strategy and solutions company.

“Therefore, assume that any solution to address these challenges that you put in place today has a very limited lifespan. Plan and budget for rapid obsolescence in the technology and processes you put in place to address mobility and BYOD challenges. By rapid, I mean revisit the market every six to 12 months for something better. The technology is evolving rapidly and the solutions market will converge quickly on approaches that work. Don’t over-invest in a fixed solution and assume you’re done.”

Mobile device management and Data loss prevention

This group of tools was supposed to be a panacea but often it’s more like a crude tourniquet. Yes, mobile device management (MDM) has a lot of useful features and functionality but it does not address all security and compliance problems. Even so, a strong MDM program is a must-have and the first of many important programs you need to put in place.

According to Gartner’s 2011 Magic Quadrant for Mobile Device Management Software report, the leading vendors are Symantec, Zenprise, Good Technology, Sybase, AirWatch, and MobileIron.

Just don’t stop at MDM and call the deed done.

“The most secure way to prevent data loss is to employ a combination of mobile device management (MDM) and data loss prevention (DLP) technologies, to both control what happens on the device and to control what information leaves the device,” advised Brian Duckering, senior manager of Endpoint Management and Mobility at Symantec.

Leading data loss prevention (DLP) vendors include Symantec, RSA and Websense. But even DLP may not be enough given successful attacks on vendors noted for their exceptional security such as the attack on RSA a year ago. You should combine several tools to thwart attackers and not necessarily rely on one suite or one vendor.

“Most implementations will start with a reputable MDM solution that allows enrollment and configuration policies to be deployed on each device, ideally through a self-service process,” said Duckering. “Additional technologies, such as DLP, encryption, anti-malware, etc., may be added as necessary.”

Be careful not to overuse these tools in your efforts to batten the hatches or you can create an entirely different set of problems for yourself.

“The enterprise is liable for its own data and has a responsibility to protect it by policy, encryption, DLP and even reserving the right to wipe that data from the device if the user is no longer authorized or the device is lost or stolen,” explained Duckering. “It is important to have the technical ability, and such a policy communicated, to remove only the corporate information on such an occasion. Deleting or corrupting personal data, such as contacts, photos, account information, etc., is a liability that the enterprises do not want.”

Basically any tool that helps you physically locate a stolen device (whether company or employee owned) is a waste of money. By the time you retrieve the device, it’s too late to protect the data. Besides, devices are so cheap now that it is often more cost effective to replace them then to retrieve them. Look for tools that protect the data instead such as remote wipes and device nukes.

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker writes about technology, science, business, and finance for leading print and online publications including ReadWriteWeb, CIO and, Institutional Investor, Fierce Markets Network, I Six Sigma magazine, CIO Update, E-Commerce Times, and many others. Her published credits include eight traditional books, a smattering of eBooks, and several analytical studies on various technologies for research firms on two continents. Among other awards, Baker won international acclaim for her documentary on the paper-making industry, and is a member of the National Press Club and the Internet Press Guild (IPG). She lives in Georgia, USA with her family and two dogs.