It wouldn't be a stretch to categorize 2011 as the year of mobility. Through the release of robust technology and the consumerization of IT, more companies than ever before have placed smartphones, tablets and other devices in the hands of employees.
But the enterprise sector may be just getting warmed up, according to a recent report from Channel Insider. Next year, contributor Pedro Pereira wrote, the adoption rate of devices figures to skyrocket as mobility shifts from an enterprise luxury to a mission-critical area necessary to keep pace with the competition.
"Mayan prognostications notwithstanding, I am going to make a single prediction of my own: Mobile devices will dominate the IT conversation in 2012. Shocking, I know, but sometimes I like to play it safe," Pereira wrote.
For organizations, a greater reliance on mobile devices will present myriad opportunities to "make a buck," as Pereira put it. However, the practice will also come with plenty of challenges, specifically in the form of data security issues.
Despite their popularity, mobile devices remain a relatively new beast for many IT departments. That, coupled with the fact that cybercriminals are increasingly targeting vulnerable platforms, has created major problems for most companies.
In addition to impact brought on by mobile malware and malicious applications, companies also have to think about what happens to smartphones and tablets should they be lost or stolen. Unless the devices are password protected, or the company has the ability to remotely wipe them, the data they contain is ripe for the taking.
"[Mobile device management] is becoming an acute need in companies large and small. And in 2012, if you don’t have a plan for how to manage and secure the tablets and smartphones your users bring to the office, you are flirting with disaster," Pereira wrote.
However, companies will also want to look beyond the management and security of a device to focus on the data itself.
In November, InformationWeek released a report that said every company's enterprise mobility program – especially those that allow employees to bring personally owned devices from home – should be accompanied by a data-centric security policy. In doing so, the news provider stated, companies can regain some of the control over their information that can be lost through the use of consumer technology.
"The thing is, device management and data security have never been the same thing, and in this era of BYOD, they really need to be treated as completely separate issues," contributor Art Wittman said.
The trouble is, according to the report, device management deals mostly in the delivery of mobile apps and technical support. It has little to no use in terms of security. But that changes once a data-focused measure is implemented.
"When it's not the company's phone or tablet or laptop, that's no longer IT's problem," Wittman said of mobile device management. "But appropriately securing sensitive data always is."
Going back to the Channel Insider report, Pereira cited a report from communications solutions vendor Enterasys that found most of the 100 IT professionals said they were concerned about personal devices connecting to the network. However, among those surveyed, 78 percent said they themselves used consumer technology at work.
That shows companies remain unprepared for the ensuing onslaught of personally owned devices, even as they continue to embrace and practice BYOD programs. With still some time remaining, organizations would be wise to reverse this trend now, before it balloons into a bigger problem.