Employee Owned Devices: BYOD Trend Accelerates

About two-thirds (65%) of IT pros, including some in enterprises with as few as 50 employees, expect an increase in employee-owned mobile devices accessing business data, according to a recent survey from InformationWeek Reports. And nearly 80% of survey respondents say mobile devices will increase in importance in their organizations in the next 24 months, more than double the 36% who said the same as recently as March 2010.

Beyond revealing a general jump in employee-driven mobile access of corporate data, the study provides one other stat of particular interest to MSPs, especially those with an SMB client base. Only 58% of respondents  have standardized on a mobile device platform and carrier selected by IT, compared to 73% in the March 2010 poll; that 15-point drop translates to much less control. And keep in mind that is 58% of all respondents, including large enterprises, combined. It is fair to assume the percentage of SMB respondents who have had the time, resources and cash available to build and implement their own standardized mobile device platform is much lower.

In a further sign of widespread lack of control enterprises have over how their employees access corporate data and systems with private mobile devices, 30% of respondents say they permit this type of access by default and only 10% strictly forbid enterprise assets to be accessed/stored on employee devices. Again, SMB responses are not broken out, but likely they overrepresent on both figures.

MSPs to the Rescue?

Employees having access to corporate systems via their own mobile devices is not necessarily a bad thing for SMBs. It reduces hardware costs and can also reduce or eliminate the need to provide office space, while freeing employees to get out in the field where the customers are, without sacrificing connectivity. However, unfettered access can lead to serious security risks and also makes tracking employee productivity more difficult. So what is an SMB with an extended enterprise to do?

Fortunately, MSPs are ready and waiting (or should be) to assist SMBs. Especially where the large wireless carriers scale most of their service/support offerings to large users, MSPs are an ideal asset for SMBs looking to gain control of their corporate networks. MSPs can help SMBs develop mobile platforms with the features and functions needed to allow remote access from employee mobile devices in a secure, managed way. You can’t stop progress, but you can steer its course to achieve a desired outcome.

Still, MSPs face plenty of decisions. For starters, MSPs must decide whether existing RMM (remote monitoring and management) software platforms are evolving quickly enough for mobile device management (MDM). If not, MSPs could be forced to master yet another management platform for Apple iPhones, iPads, Google Android, iOS, tablets and smart phones. Plus, there are also signs that emerging devices -- such as Amazon's Kindle Fire (see review) -- could penetrate the business market.

Kaseya launched its first Mobile Device Management offering in August 2011. Since that time, most of the major RMM and IT automation software providers have announced plans for MDM capabilities.

Additional challenges loom. For instance, any MSPs are still developing pricing strategies for MDM -- weighing per user vs. per device fees, and the potential implications on profit margins and customer satisfaction.

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