In the past few months, enterprise mobility has taken on a whole new meaning. Working remotely became the “new normal”, which is why users are more dependent than ever on a range of devices and applications.
As a consequence, some key questions arise for IT managers: How will the changes caused by the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn affect mobile technologies? And how can enterprise mobility strategies and tools help businesses, both now and in the long run?
An important mobility trend that is likely to continue is the increasing importance of Unified Endpoint Management (UEM). It is a strategic approach to unify and centralize the way companies manage their devices, including smartphones, tablets, PCs and even IoT devices. UEM thus represents a logical extension of mobile management tools, starting with classic Mobile Device Management (MDM), integrating Mobile Application Management (MAM) and finally expanding through Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) platforms.
The fact that significantly more employees now work from home, combined with the reduced IT budgets, will accelerate the trend towards UEM, explains Chris Silva, Vice President and Analyst at Gartner. In its guide, the company has corrected the importance and schedule of a UEM implementation: a key program that should be considered in 2020 has become a project that should be underway. The older device management tools still used in many companies, which are based on centralized imaging and patch management, “represent a great challenge because the employees continue to work remotely and have no access to physical workplaces,” explains Silva. Therefore, organizations that use UEM to manage their PCs could support home office scenarios much faster.
The colleagues from Forrester Research, in turn, are observing a significantly increased use of cloud technologies as a result of the switch to remote work. This definitely includes UEM, especially when it comes to installing management software on private notebooks so that they can access company resources, explains Forrester analyst Andrew Hewitt. “I also spoke to a number of customers who are now increasingly using cloud-based desktop and application virtualization solutions to help them transition to work from their home office,” said Hewitt. “This is an alternative approach that can also be used for private devices, especially for banks and other regulated industries. Overall, he sees increasing investments in the full range of EUC (End User Computing) technologies, said the Forrester man common factor is that it is almost always cloud versions.
Given that so many employees are working remotely and will likely do so for some time, security and user support are high priorities when it comes to enterprise mobility. “It is important that employees have the tools and resources they need to work safely and smoothly – both inside and outside the traditional office environment,” said Adam Holtby, chief analyst at Omdia. “Mobility management platforms are an important part of the home office puzzle because they enable companies to secure the use of mobile devices and applications.” Holtby admits that many companies had solutions for efficient work from home even before the pandemic. However, this was usually only a small number of employees and slow rollouts. “The sudden massive shift to remote working means companies have to act quickly to help employees work from home,” he says. As if that weren’t enough, it had to be possible in a productive, familiar and safe way.
Enterprise mobility management platforms could help protect the company from overly careless or frivolous behavior by employees that could compromise sensitive business data and information, said Holtby. “For example, if there are no secure file sharing options or they are too complicated, employees can start sending sensitive data through personal emails or storing them on local drives,” says Holtby. Tools from the EMM area could help here, ensuring that only devices that comply with data protection guidelines can access sensitive work documents. With the help of policy engines, for example, it can be enforced that professional data may only be stored in a trusted cloud storage location.
As Forrester analyst Hewitt explains, some companies are also rethinking their authentication strategies and looking for easier ways than entering a password to identify them and provide access to work applications. “Things like digital certificates, biometrics, and 2FA (two-factor authentication) are of paramount importance to many organizations that previously had no remote work,” he says. Hewitt finds the use of behavioral analyzes for security in the home office particularly fascinating, although this option is probably not yet used as often. This opens up a huge field of application for technologies such as artificial intelligence or machine learning. For example, you can determine where an employee’s home is located and then give them smoother access to company resources when they’re there, he says.
As the Forrester man reveals, some companies are also discussing using finger gestures to identify people when they’re in use – not biometrically, but through the actual gestures they use their fingers to scroll, click, etc. do, “says Hewitt.” It’s a fascinating skill for remote work because it helps you better see who’s really using a device, “said the Forrester analyst.
Another point besides security is IT support: Organizations need to make sure that they support mobile users effectively. “To better meet the needs of a remote workforce, IT support practices and processes need to evolve and become ‘mobile’,” said Omdia chief analyst Holtby: “Traditional IT support must ensure that systems and support mechanisms are accessible and optimized for use by mobile workers. “
- Open ruin
Public WiFi networks are a common attack vector for hackers looking for private data. So you should always take the detour via VPN whenever possible. Avast Software conducted an experiment at Barcelona Airport prior to the 2016 Mobile World Congress. The result: Thousands of MWC visitors ignored the danger for convenience and put their devices and data at risk.
- Data waiver
Where there is no data, nothing can be stolen, lost or misused. The first generation of security solutions for mobile devices tried to shield the devices completely in order to protect the data. We now know that device management alone is not enough. Managing various mobile devices and operating systems can cause IT departments to be overwhelmed with requests. This in turn promotes general IT security in the companies concerned. Not.
- Non-stop no-go
Another way to offend hackers is to make sure that your applications offer as little attack surface as possible. To do this, make sure that the cyber villains don’t have enough time to find a strategic path to your IP. By not allowing permanent connections in the first place, you make it difficult for the attackers.
- Enforcement order
One of the fastest and easiest ways to gain control over mobile applications: Check your guidelines! Every company should have easy-to-enforce policies that cover both employee access to mobile apps and resource access for the applications themselves. For example, employees who will only be in the company for a foreseeable time do not need access to the entire network – instead, they should only be able to access the applications that they need for their tasks. Overall permissions for third-party apps should also be under the control of the IT department and not the employees or users.
Key to happiness
Security developer tools are a wonderful thing when it comes to protecting your data. With every IT security layer, it becomes more difficult for network villains to access the data. Sounds logical, doesn’t it? And yet it is anything but “business as usual”.
- Fusion cuisine
IT security and the app development process are still considered separately. Security should be integrated into the entire development process – from the first tests through the actual production to transmission to the app store. Not including the aspect of IT security in the overall process is a huge failure. Just so you know.
- Foreign feathers
Developers often rely on third-party components for app development – for example when it comes to file format parsing or compression. These modular components usually fit the apps like a well-registered pair of combat gloves and it would not be efficient to redesign them every time. However, in this case your developers should definitely check that every third-party component is up to date. Even after release!
In general, the experts agree that enterprise mobility strategies and tools can be an important aid for organizations to master the short-term challenges they face (including the home office model) and to thrive in the long term. “Enterprise mobility helps keep the company afloat,” says Hewitt. “Or to put it simply: without a mobility strategy, you have to keep employees in the office.” And since there are so many regulations that prohibit or restrict this, it basically means that the store can be closed.
His Gartner colleague Silva sees the modernization of endpoint management tools from older systems on UEM, the introduction of management models for BYOD programs (bring your own device) and the use of tools that are all mobile as key components of such a mobility strategy Support platforms. With this basis, analysis data can then be used to drive improvements or to use the actual usage and performance data to decide which new tools, systems and applications should be included in the portfolio of the digital workplace, says Silva.
But that’s not all, says Forrester analyst Hewitt: In the long term, enterprise mobility offers the opportunity to create more flexible working styles that can be used to attract and retain talent. “Many companies that I have spoken to are of the opinion that moving employees back to their home office will not result in a drop in productivity,” said Hewitt. As a consequence, they are now asking themselves how they can make targeted use of the flexible choice of place of work, to achieve additional advantages beyond the uninterrupted operation. (mb)