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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 23rd Nov 2011



Mobile computing devices are becoming more and more common, both for personal and business use. Although such a device can carry a lot of data itself, perhaps their main strength lies in remote networking; a worker away from the office can still access their e-mails and information stored in the company’s servers. This report will examine the problems this mobility comes with.


Networking and Security

Remote devices do not integrate well into traditional computer networks, where usually all computers inside the firewall are considered part of the network and those beyond are not. A mobile device will need to connect to the network servers from outside the firewall, which requires sending company data out into the internet and usually over an unsecured connection. Obviously this poses security concerns when a device is lost or stolen and so measures should be taken to ensure the company’s data is secure. These measures should include immediately informing the company when a loss occurs, the ability to remotely lock and wipe the devices and restricting what they can access in the first place alongside traditional techniques such as passwords. These data protection protocols must be understood by the employees using such devices.

Mobile devices are very suitable to be used in a virtualised environment. When virtualised data is accessed it is not downloaded onto the device, and when combined with the ability to block access to the device provides data security to a company. Data accessed over public networks may also benefit from encryption.


Management

The biggest issue for mobile devices is with device management for smartphones, due to the fact that there are a relatively large number of different operating systems. This will affect what management products can be used, and is further complicated by employees wishing to use their own smartphones instead of company supplied devices.

Laptops and tablets can be managed by the same products as desktop computers and servers, but although many of these will support a range of smartphone operating systems if a company purchases incompatible smartphones they will have to purchase management software specifically for the smartphones. Although a company can mitigate this problem by being careful as to which smartphones they use, if an employee already has a device they wish to connect to the network it may not be supportable. Further problems can arise because some types of device may not be compatible with certain systems currently in use with the company, such as e-mail.

In addition to the above, some smartphone applications are designed for particular operating systems, so if someone considers a particular application essential to their business their choice of device may be limited. In addition individual employees wishing to use their own device will not be able to if it runs on a different OS. Some applications for smartphones and tablet PCs can cause problems with the device so it is advisable that employees not be allowed to download applications until they have been tested.

Some companies have found it cheaper and easier to use Linux and/or Apple operating systems on all mobile and non-mobile devices rather than using Windows for their workstations and servers.


Power
Mobile devices often perform a large number of tasks with several different features running at the same time. This combined with the limitations of batteries leads many such devices (particularly tablets) to have a short battery life. This can be improved by making sure only in-use applications and features are active as well as keeping the screen as dim as practical. Having the device go into a low power mode when not in use will also improve battery life.

A similar problem can occur when attempting to charge the device. Many can be charged through USB connections to a laptop (in the case of smartphones) or desktop computer. However, older machines may not provide the power required through their USB sockets causing the attached device to charge slowly or not at all. This can either be solved by turning the device off to charge or (preferably) plugging the device into the mains.


Conclusion
Although mobile computing devices are highly useful for people who spend a lot of time out of the office, this comes with decreased security of data. The possibility of employees wishing to use their own devices on the company network can raise compatibility issues with applications and management software. Anyone considering investing in this technology will have to consider the balance between these factors to determine if they will benefit.


Graham Keen

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