Are Security Concerns for Mobile Devices Slowing Enterprise Adoption?

By Tony Rizzo — December 01, 2011

A recent survey conducted by the Enterprise Device Alliance (EDA) points out that IT administrators believe that the challenge of securing mobile devices is the largest roadblock to acceptance by enterprises - even as BYOD realities intrude. Many of the survey responses don't seem particularly earthshaking in terms of anything new or that anyone would otherwise expect IT to say, however the survey does underscore the significant and potentially complex security issues that IT has to deal with.
 
54% of respondents said that preventing access to sensitive data from unauthorized users is the top concern slowing adoption smartphones and tablets for enterprises. 59% said that a second source of concern is the security risk should the devices be stolen or lost. More than half of IT departments, 56%, see popular consumer solutions such as Gmail and Dropbox as security threats, nearly one third, 30%, of all organizations tolerate the use of these consumer solutions simply because they aren't using a secure alternative.
 
Despite these concerns, more than 90% reported that tablets are being tested in pilot or production deployments at their organizations. Though the respondents indicated that only 6% of their employees currently have tablets, they expect that number to increase 250% by the end of next year to approximately 15% of their user communities.
 
The organizations reported a noteworthy divergence of reasons for supporting mobile devices. For smartphones, the most reported benefit driving adoption was email access. Email access is the primary and overwhelming enterprise resource that IT will make available to mobile users - 87% of respondents cited email, which suggests that email is still, 20 years after the fact, a killer application. Email was followed by remote control/access to a computer, with 38% noting this. 31% said access to documents and files on corporate servers was a critical mobile initative.
 
For tablets, the driver was executives demanding that IT support the devices. Unlike smartphones, the main use of tablets was apps including "App Store Apps," custom apps, and mobile access to a variety of enterprise IT resources. 55% of the organizations expect to have completed their pilot testing of tablets and moved to production deployment by the end of 2012.
 
The survey did reveal one issue that does not receive enough airplay:  many IT organizations are under-resourced and under-investing in tools, something that is potentially liable to cost companies competitiveness and delay solutions that will reduce security risks. With 75%of responding organizations reporting policies that allowed at least some of their staff to use their own mobile device for company purposes, this understaffing and under-investing will likely become a key issue in 2012.
 
The survey revealed that even among the largest organizations, those with more than 10,000 employees, 66% allowed some employees to bring their own devices and that IT would support them to some degree. This acceptance of BYOD may explain why 45% of the companies provide no prescribed device configurations.
 
For the 55% who are providing some configuration, one of the most comprehensive ways to deliver them is by using a mobile device management (MDM) solution. But only 16% of organizations with more than 500 employees reported using MDM solutions today. That number is expected to more than triple to 50% by the end of 2012 but it is never the less a surprisingly low number that most likely reflects back to the under-resourced and under-invested issue.

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