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July - 2012 - issue > Technology
IT-Shift-to-Tablets----Have-You-Prepared-Yet?
Puneesh Chaudhry
Co-Founder & CEO-Copiun
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Puneesh Chaudhry is responsible for the overall corporate strategy and day-to-day operational execution. Under Puneesh's leadership, Copiun has successfully raised angel and venture funding, received a patent, and counts over 200 enterprise customers using its products globally.

Survey results from Nielsen show that users are abandoning their laptops and switching to tablets as their primary computing and entertainment devices. This trend is already beginning to carry over into the enterprise as a result of CoIT and BYOD, and IT departments must be prepared for the shift – or get left in the static dust. The Consumerization of IT (CoIT) is continuing to be one of the most disruptive trends for enterprises in recent history. A recent Gartner report suggests that there will be an estimated 665 million tablets in use worldwide by 2016, and industry analysts believe this trend has in fact crossed the chasm and the majority of enterprises in the U.S. have some kind of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy – or problem. The reason for this is simple - companies see that investing in mobility has potential to bring ROI to them. For personal and corporate tasks the tablet allows employees to become increasingly mobile and productive.

However, enterprises must continue to adhere to a constantly changing set of standards, laws, and guidelines regarding data protection. In order to be productive, a knowledge worker needs to frequently share files and data with other employees, the company file server and their own mobile devices. But by doing so, the well meaning employee also exposes their firm to myriad security risks that may conflict with government regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, the Patriot Act or the EU Data Protection Directive, as well as industry-specific regulations, such as Payment Card Industry (PCI) or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

Use of tablets and other personal devices is not going anywhere but up, and while the appeal of new tablets captivates even the most cautious among us, many are overlooking other significant risks:

• Internal collaboration - As virtual offices and remote workforces become the norm, we see teams accessing the latest daily operations briefings, conducting HR training, and distributing policies to mobile devices. Finance is facilitating the distribution of confidential information such as quarterly financial documents in tablet-friendly format. But what if one tablet user, a board member or employee, leaves the company? Who owns the information on her or his tablet? Is the tablet employee-owned or company-owned? If it’s a personal device, how can you secure and retrieve the information on it?

• In the field – When we visit engineering consultancies, we now see field workers reviewing reference designs and manuals, customer service agreements and retrieving the documents they need fast without dialing into the home office. What if their tablet is lost? Do you have the same safeguards that you have on a laptop? A home computer? What if some of that sensitive customer data is regulated and cannot be shared outside certain geographies, between different departments or with competing customers? How can you regulate document transfers?

• Sales and marketing – Using tablets, sales teams are now collaborating on monthly quotas and pipeline, and distributing updated forecasts to senior management. They are accessing the latest marketing and product collateral for their sales binders and providing customers with the latest product catalog, pricing and product availability on the spot. How are all of these documents being coordinated among teams – on the corporate file server, in a cloud, using one or a dozen apps running on a dizzying variety of new devices, all with different operating systems?

Most of the time, employees are not doing this with any malicious intent; they are just trying to get their work done. On devices such as an iPad that does not have a native file system; they cannot function at all without a cloud-based solution. The result is transactions containing sensitive information may now be taking place on personally owned devices, public clouds and other networks that are outside the domain of an enterprise's control. And if IT does not offer them a way to gain access to their documents, they will continue to find insecure workarounds such as Dropbox, iCloud, SugarSync and YouSendIt. The result is that the consumerization of IT has gone beyond BYOD and now equates to Bring Your Own IT (BYOIT). It has never been easier for employees at all levels to bypass the IT department, consume cloud services and use their own devices on a corporate network.

Fortunately, there are solutions available that allow employees to maintain their mobility and productivity and allow enterprises to make the shift to tablets, without compromising corporate data or conflicting with regulations.

SOLUTIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Most industry analysts recommend providing a controlled mobile collaboration solution to prepare or adapt to BYOD and avoid these risks. Yet achieving mobile worker productivity with no compromises to the data is the challenge enterprises are faced with today. Executives should consider a workable collaboration policy that starts with the following:

• Employees must be able to securely access, sync and share their documents from any mobile device – across any platform – from tablets to SharePoint or other file servers.

• Employees should be able to work on their documents with productivity apps they know and love – the apps that are native and appropriate to the device they are using. Quickoffice, for example, for their tablets.

• End-to-end data governance is a must, along with robust document life cycle policies and reporting that includes a full auditing capability, helping to put control back in IT's hands.

• Look for a solution that allows them to be shared by trusted applications that are authorized by an IT administrator. Avoid solutions with VPN access, which results in too many security challenges (e.g., exposing corporate data to hackers, malware and more.)

The IT paradigm shift to tablets is inevitable, so the longer a company waits until implementing a BYOD policy, the longer they remain vulnerable to data leakage, malicious attacks and falling out of compliance.

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