Sync your way to BYOD

When formulating a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy, an often-missed step is reviewing your existing enterprise infrastructure for solutions before branching out.

One important technology to examine is enterprise synchronization. While more commonly thought of as a tool for keeping servers in synchronization, support for BYOD and mobile devices in general is starting to happen.

Alfresco is best known as a secure enterprise file management solution. The company recently released Alfresco Mobile, and I had a chance to speak with Marc Dubresson, who heads up its mobile initiatives. My experience with Alfresco up to that point was with synchronization of massive document libraries, so I had a hard time envisioning them in terms of BYOD. Dubresson told me, however, that Alfresco is building upon its open-source and business workflow foundations to make Alfresco Mobile into a “BYOD enabler.”

Alfresco’s intent is to provide tools for organizations to customize their own solutions. Dubresson pointed out that while Alfresco and Alfresco Mobile can be run out of the box, a segment of its customers use it to build their own custom solutions. Alfresco Mobile is certainly going to find a home in Alfresco shops with BYOD users, but the company is also opening itself up to new customers.

Peer Software, a provider of data management solutions, is beginning to see its customers look to enterprise syncing solutions to support BYOD as well. Claus Schroeder, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, explained why enterprise-syncing solutions and mobile users mesh. “It seems like a lot of sync-related solutions are just adaptations of traditional backup software originally conceived where most or all users were in a headquarters or branch office with good quality network connections to the backup server,” he told me in an interview. He emphasized that enterprise syncing solutions excel with mobile workers who can be located just about anywhere in the world, connected in different ways, each with differing levels of performance.

Schroeder also noted that mobile users require a combination of real-time and push synchronization because they have different connectivity states, including:

  • On net when in the corporate office
  • Off net but connected remotely when at home or in a hotel
  • Temporarily disconnected when working while on a flight, in a car, or at a job site

Schroeder defined enterprise syncing by saying:

As soon as the laptop is connected it can also collect data which was deposited for it on the central storage server. The ability to define several jobs makes it easy to centrally control the pre-loading of data onto a new laptop or to distribute new files/directories to a group of mobile users.

His description includes horsepower that traditional mobile devices and syncing solutions may not have.

“With mobile users, bandwidth utilization must be as efficient as possible,” Schroeder added. Peer Software’s products use byte-level replication, which only syncs part of the changed file over the wire. It also incorporates bandwidth throttling to manage the percentage of bandwidth used, along with blackout schedules for avoiding peak periods, and the ability to detect if a cellular model is roaming and could rack up high expenses. This type of intelligence is seen in enterprise syncing solutions, rather than traditional syncing solutions.

Alfresco and Peer Software show how traditional enterprise solutions are being extended to mobile users and the ample reasons why a mobile file syncing solution for BYOD users may already be in-house.

This post previously appeared on The Mobility Hub on February 20, 2013.

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week,, and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.

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How BYOD will change IT

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend and how it will change the IT department of tomorrow was a popular point of discussion during a panel discussion I participated in earlier this year.

The advent of BYOD will not only affect the everyday operations of IT staff, it will have an impact on the mission and basic business functions of the department.

Here are some major ways in which BYOD will affect IT departments in the future:

1. The IT department will evolve into a services and apps broker.
With the increasing popularity of subscription-based cloud apps and enterprise app stores, the IT department’s role will shift toward that of a services and apps broker. IT will take a technology leadership role in managing software and services licensing across employee-owned devices as well as the remaining corporate-owned PCs and mobile devices still remaining in inventory.

As BYOD makes enterprise gains, even more systems will migrate to the cloud to ensure support for users across devices. Applications migrating to the cloud include:

  • Email, calendaring, and productivity apps
  • Project management apps
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • Accounting and financial apps
  • Online collaboration and social enterprise apps
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Likewise, the IT department will administer cloud app accounts and manage an enterprise app store or standard app list for the company’s BYOD users.

2. IT will morph from hardware provider to advisor.
The IT department will become less and less of a hardware player as employee-owned laptops, tablets, and smartphones replace corporate-owned systems.

Corporate servers being taken offline as systems migrate to the cloud will further lessen the hardware footprint. Corporate printer numbers will also decline as more collaboration and document reviews take place on tablets or online.

IT professionals will still need to put their device selection skills to work in organizations that follow the COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled) model, and as advisors to employees seeking guidance on making BYOD choices appropriate to their roles.

3. IT’s responsibilities for security and communications will expand.
The IT department’s responsibilities and support around communications and security will certainly grow in a BYOD future. IT will manage the mobile device management (MDM) and/or secure authentication solutions that will be in place. Responsibilities for end-point security will also increase as BYOD-enabled personal devices grow to become employees’ primary work platforms.

As a communications provider, corporate WiFi network management responsibilities will increase to accommodate more devices accessing the office network. Working with service providers to ensure that employees have adequate coverage and understand service plans and limitations will be essential. IT and accounting departments will both have a share in managing the allowances given to employees with BYOD devices and in controlling expenses.

4. IT can have a larger role in onboarding and educating employees.
On an employee’s first day, a stop by IT will be part of the office tour where the IT department will provision their devices with necessary apps as well as access to the corporate network and/or cloud applications. Employees will learn about corporate policies, security best-practices, and their personal responsibilities.

While change can be painful for some organizations, the changes that BYOD brings to the future of IT draw upon past expertise. This enables IT to become a strategic player behind the services and device choices that power a BYOD-enabled workforce.

What other changes do you see BYOD bringing to the IT department of the future?

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Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.

Surviving the impending MDM market consolidation

Citrix acquired Zenprise. IBM acquired Fiberlink. Then VMware acquired AirWatch. Microsoft turned around and launched the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite. These four market events may indeed shape the future of the Mobile Device Management (MDM) market by sparking even further MDM market consolidation.

Jason Frye, senior director, Office of the CTO at BMC Software says:

This market has an interesting interplay of device and OS manufacturers, enterprise infrastructure vendors and companies attempting to position themselves as “mobile platforms.” On one side you have Microsoft and IBM attacking the market with a set of very compelling technologies. What’s even more interesting is the EMS platform from Microsoft that both commoditizes (Windows Intune) and provides a very capable enterprise platform via [the] EMS platform (especially with the identity management component).

The EMS solution will quickly drive out of the market any standalone or weakly associated MDM-only solutions. The device and OS manufacturers compound the pressure at the lower end of the market with exceedingly capable built-in MDM features.

We then look to the non-affiliated mobile platform companies like Good and Mobile Iron. Some may consider VMware and Citrix here, but I would argue that their focus is elsewhere.

These organizations face a strong challenge of being disconnected from the “hub” of IT. And while companies in this space provide some very compelling capabilities, I find it difficult to believe that major enterprise organizations will continue to be satisfied with having to integrate mobile platform providers into their existing IT service management and operations infrastructure.

Frye also points to BlackBerry as a potential MDM acquisition because of their core technology:

When you look at this space from the view of the CIO, you will find that they prefer not to have to purchase solutions like MDM as a standalone offering or even as part of a mobile enterprise management solution. They expect support for mobility management simply [to] be a feature of their larger service management solution and, to this point, we should expect the market to move quickly in this direction.

When asked about the next likely company looking to make a purchase in the MDM space, Jon Schoen, vice president of business development at Seismic, tells me in an email interview, “The easy answer to this would be to just say Apperian, given their customer base and relatively broad product offering. I think, however, that the next likely acquisition will be by a carrier looking to offer as close as possible to a virtualized environment to enterprise customers.”

We’ve seen the virtualization players acquire MDM capabilities (VMWare, Citrix, SAP, IBM) so that seems to be the trend for a convergence of MDM and a virtualized world,” he adds. “That said, I think OpenPeak could be a likely first target by a carrier partner like AT&T sometime very soon. Also, OpenPeak just added a former AT&T exec responsible for OpenPeak deployment to AT&T customers to its leadership team in a newly-created role of president.”

MDM market consolidation is only going to continue. In Part 2 tomorrow, I have some tips on how enterprises can survive MDM market consolidation.

Surviving the Impending MDM Market Consolidation, Part 2

As I showed in part 1, the mobile device management (MDM) market is still rich in acquisition targets. Enterprises relying on MDM should be attentive to this market. If their MDM provider gets acquired, it could affect their bring your own device (BYOD) and enterprise mobility strategies. At the least, it can affect the vendor/customer relationship.

Here are some survival tips for the impending MDM market consolidation.

1. Keep an open line of communication with your MDM vendor Keeping an open line of communication is perhaps the most important tip for surviving MDM market consolidation. Jeff Mitchell, vice president of sales at AirWatch, told me in an email that communication and consistency have been key to the AirWatch sales team throughout its acquisition by VMware. “We sent out several communications and held one-on-ones with customers, engaged closely with VMware reps and hosted joint briefings with the goal of sharing our joint vision and why our partnership is great for our customers.”

A Fiberlink spokesperson told me that clear and consistent communications with customers were essential in setting customer expectations during the startup’s purchase by IBM. The sales and support teams received relevant information to provide regular updates and answer customer questions.

If your MDM vendor isn’t communicative during an acquisition, press the vendor yourself.

2. Know the support transition plan It’s natural to expect that, once a large player acquires an MDM startup, the technical support team joins a larger support organization. Fiberlink said that preserving its reputation as a responsive and trusted EMM partner was a key goal during its transition. The startup wanted customers to have the same access to sales and support as they did before the acquisition.

3. Read the fine print Review your contract with your MDM provider, so you know your options in the event the vendor is acquired, especially when it comes to refunds, pricing guarantees, or other protections and incentives you might have available as a customer.

4. Know your MDM API requirements If you are using an application programming interface (API) to integrate your MDM with other applications, know your integration requirements in case you switch MDM solutions. Likewise, if your vendor is acquired, you need to ask how its API will fare in the new product roadmap.

5. Balance the innovation of a startup solution with an exit strategy Some of the more exciting product demos I’ve seen in the past year have been from MDM startups. My advice is not to shy away from a startup MDM vendor, but have an exit strategy if it goes out of business or if the terms of doing business with it after an acquisition no longer suit your needs.

This post was originally published in two parts on The Mobility Hub on May 27 & 28, 2014.

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Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.

The datacenter: Foundation of BYOD

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs have given rise to all sorts of solutions and consultants striving to protect the corporate enterprise and data ownership while providing the best possible user experience. However, too often, the corporate datacenter is overlooked in BYOD planning. This is unfortunate, because the datacenter is truly is the foundation of a successful BYOD program, just like it is for other corporate IT systems.

Perhaps I’ve taken the role of the datacenter for granted. Because up until recent discussions I had with Kent Christenson, senior director, Data Center Transformation at Datalink, I hadn’t thought too deeply about the role of the datacenter in BYOD.

In particular, Christenson addressed the potential challenges of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), especially scalability, network bandwidth, and the relative costs that might be forgotten or glossed over as part of a BYOD plan. VDI is commonly found in healthcare and some financial institutions where compliance demands high security, but scaling it to accommodate additional users requires careful network and infrastructure planning. If you aren’t already embarking on a VDI implementation, it’s safe to say your other corporate resources are going to need to scale to accommodate BYOD.

During our two discussions, Christenson also raised some good points around the forgotten elements of datacenter connectivity, capacity, and enterprise storage. Examples of additional design work for a BYOD program include storage planning to accommodate a VDI implementation and platform-as-a-service (PaaS). This work needs to be accounted for as part of an overall BYOD rollout, or IT risks overtaxing the organization’s technology infrastructure and compromising the user experience.

It takes datacenter representation on a BYOD team to advocate for these additional requirements in the BYOD plan so they don’t get lost in the hype and real or imagined savings dancing through corporate executives’ eyes.

I also got some perspective on the datacenter’s role in BYOD from Eric Troyer, director of global networks and content at Equinix, via email.

Troyer wrote:

A key issue for enabling mobile enterprise users is application performance. Enterprises put significant effort into developing and rolling out corporate applications with the end goal of creating an efficient on-the-go workforce. This development often takes place in test and development environments where connectivity is homogenous and less complex than what is seen in production environments. Under such circumstances these applications perform very well. Their latency parameters are within acceptable ranges and the projected user experience seems appropriate. In such an application development environment, network connectivity is often viewed as a black box where plugging in a IP connection means the application will simply work for everyone.

Troyer further explained that good connectivity can make or break a mobile application, where low-latency connectivity and a highly responsive service are expected and imperative to adoption and productivity. Users in the real world will be connecting across vastly different and varied networks, where the data path between user and application may have multiple intermediary network hops, and long geographic routing. This can lead to high round-trip latency and poor application performance.

Christenson and Troyer both bring up some strong points that show datacenter management should be a key player in your BYOD efforts to build and maintain a high-performance infrastructure to ensure a secure and productive BYOD-enabled workforce.

What role is your datacenter management playing in your BYOD planning and operations?

This post originally appeared on The Mobility Hub on May 2, 2013.

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Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly.

5 Lessons from healthcare BYOD

Healthcare institutions and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies might seem at odds due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and concerns over Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

However, after speaking to some healthcare IT experts, the same concerns about endpoint security, data governance, and mobile device management (MDM) exist but with the added concerns of stringent compliance programs that protect patient information.

Here are five lessons from healthcare BYOD for other industries:

1. BYOD can interconnect organizations and cross hierarchies
Healthcare has had to adapt to what doctors do,” says Chris Davis, senior solutions architect, Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “The healthcare industry is a collection of providers agreeing to participate together much different from some of the other corporate driven practices and hierarchies.”

“It’s from necessity, not out of design,” adds Davis about healthcare BYOD. Early adopters, even Millennials, aren’t part of the healthcare BYOD discussion.

2. Outsourcing enterprise mobile and BYOD security is an option
Changes in mobile devices and mobile security technologies can be hard for some companies to manage. This is leading to a growing outsourcing market for BYOD and mobile security including managed service providers and professional services firms.

Julee Thompson, Chief Healthcare Executive for Sprint, recommends that healthcare institutions seeking out technology partners to handle mobile/BYOD security. This advice is applicable across industries as organizations of all size move to secure their enterprise end-points and corporate data.

3. Separate data from the device for BYOD security
HIPAA focuses on protecting the data, not the device. This makes healthcare IT focus on protecting data using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and SaaS-based applications, thus taking patient data and PII off employee devices.

“It depends on what you are using the device for. As an example, device security really is the is the thing most providers and administrators are going to be concerned about with BYOD,” says Daniel Cane, CEO of Modernizing Medicine, a provider of cloud-based Electronic Medical Records software. “If the data isn’t residing on the device, I think it’s a lot easier to have a BYOD environment.”

4. Compliance programs raise the stakes for BYOD
The ramifications for a security breach in a traditional corporation are a heck of a lot less draconian than a breach with HIPAA,” says Cane. “A HIPAA breach is a lot more punitive than a software breach so BYOD if you aren’t using cloud applications can get very scary, very quickly.”

He also adds that information is the asset that has to be protected whether that is on corporate or personal computing devices.

5. Keep lost devices a focus of BYOD security
Healthcare is a highly mobile profession with a user community that’s literally on their feet all day running from crisis to crisis. It’s easy for a healthcare practitioner to set their device down and lose it (more so than traditional office workers). Verizon’s Davis and nearly every healthcare IT expert I’ve spoken with on the subject of BYOD points to lost devices as a major security concern for healthcare institutions. Lost device security concerns drive the need for MDM solutions and early interest in emerging mobile security technologies like geo-fencing.

There’s a lot to learn about BYOD security management from the healthcare industry because of the unique challenges they face from maintaining HIPAA compliance and dealing with sensitive information.

Would it bother you if your doctor’s office went BYOD?

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This post was originally posted on The Mobility Hub on April 9, 2014

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data.