The rise of smartphones and tablets is now an unavoidable issue within enterprise IT discussion as network administrators struggle to balance the advantages of a more flexible workforce without compromising the security of company networks and data. According to the latest research from industry experts at CompTIA, it is officially time for companies to prepare for the "post-PC" era.
Desktop computing will continue to be a mainstay of office operations for years to come, but the accelerated adoption of laptops, ultrabooks, smartphones and tablets is extending the perimeter of the corporate network and adding new complexity to data protection plans.
According to the latest report from the Pew Research Center, nearly half of all American adults own smartphones. As the BYOD (Bring-your-own-Device) paradigm continues to take root in enterprise IT strategies, CompTIA suggests that smartphones now outnumber standard cell phones in the workplace. Additionally, tablets ranked highest for "purchase intent" over the next 12 months.
Aside from merely owning these gadgets, employees continue to use mobile devices for a wider range of tasks. In the survey of 500 business and IT decision-makers, CompTIA researchers found that 84 percent of smartphone owners use the devices for email and web browsing. Tablet owners, on the other hand, are more prone to use their devices for additional tasks such as taking notes and giving presentations. There was even a sizable subset of respondents that indicated that they use their tablets in lieu of phones as a primary communication device.
As adoption rates continue to climb and smartphones and tablets establish a permanent place in the common workflow, companies slow to adapt could face disastrous consequences.
"Currently, the primary motivation for a business to adopt a mobility strategy is to enable a mobile workforce and ensure smooth operations," explained CompTIA technology analysis director Seth Robinson. "However, the ability to connect to customers in a mobile environment is increasingly important. So any mobility strategy must address the needs of two different groups with distinct needs and requirements."
Just 22 percent of companies have a formal mobility policy in place, according to CompTIA, while another 20 percent were forming their plans at the time of the survey. With the majority of mobile data security plans still in their formative stages, it could be a blessing in disguise for fast-acting companies. With less organizational inertia to overcome, IT managers may have a greater chance of establishing rock solid fundamentals and comprehensive protection with the fresh start of a new protocol.
Among the greatest challenges cited by survey respondents was the regulation of application downloads. With nearly half of IT professionals identifying malicious apps as a serious concern, whitelisting, blacklisting and endpoint monitoring continue to be topics of debate. Other commonly expressed anxieties were the potential dangers of lost or stolen devices, mobile-specific malware, use of open Wi-Fi networks and the use of business devices for personal activities.
"Issues such as mobile device management and mobile security are really in the beginning stages," Robinson added. "Organizations will have to strike a balance between business objectives and security objectives, which may not always be in [sync]."
One strategy posited by Trend Micro security researchers approaches data protection in the post-PC era from a unique angle. As the number of mobile devices accessing company resources continues to expand, the network perimeter is wider than ever before. But instead of struggling to monitor all corners of vast environments, it may be wiser to shift focus back to data-level security provisions that guard information wherever it goes – both in transit and at rest.
Consumerization News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro