Chances are good that if you work in the corporate world, you have a Blackberry. For years there really wasn't any alternative. But this is gradually beginning to change as more and more companies give in to employees who want an iPhone or an Android-based phone, but don't want to be stuck carrying around two phones, one for work and one for personal use.
A recent survey of 150 Fortune 500 chief information officers, chief technology officers and chief security officers by Trust Digital (now McAfee) found that while a large percentage of these organizations currently use or support BlackBerry devices, 45 percent are planning to support iPhone and Android smart phones as enterprise devices because of employee demand.
A number of companies have already begun to open the door to BlackBerry alternatives. One large pharmaceutical company has even allowed its employees to choose an iPhone or a BlackBerry. In the financial sector, J.P. Morgan is reportedly testing Apple's iPhone and Google's Android software as an alternative to Research in Motion's BlackBerry, according to a Bloomberg report. Swiss bank UBS also is considering allowing its staff to use iPhones and U.K.-based Standard Chartered Bank said in May it would switch to iPhones from the BlackBerry.
"The coming wave of enterprise mobility is all about the 'app phone,' devices like the iPhone or Android that provide laptop-like support for apps, not just e-mail," said Todd Gebhart, executive vice president of Consumer, Mobile and Small Business at McAfee. But that wave of enterprise mobility brings with it a whole lot of worry about data security.
That is one of the main reasons that the Blackberry has had such strong corporate support. The BlackBerry Enterprise Server service offered by BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) meets a very high standard of security--so high in fact that some governments in emerging markets are threatening to block BlackBerry service for national security reasons because RIM's stringent encryption and security network leaves them unable to monitor and read e-mails and Web browsing activity.
The iPhone and Android, however, have had security challenges. Software that runs iPad and iPhone, for instance, was found in August to have a vulnerability that could allow hackers to enslave the devices.
The Android, meanwhile, may be selling well, but security firm SMobile Systems said in a June report that 20 percent of applications pose a potential security threat.
Northborough, Mass.-based technology analyst firm J. Gold Associates said it believes Android poses a greater risk to enterprises than the other major mobile operating systems and said it cannot recommend deployment of Android-based devices at any enterprise that is worried about security and compliance.
Data security for mobile devices is not a new concern. But, as companies begin to support new mobile applications and devices, they will face new challenges in keeping data safe.
It would be "easy" to just stand by the tried and true BlackBerry. And many companies may do just that. But as companies begin testing the waters with new applications and systems, they are going to need a sound enterprise strategy for deploying application-enabled smart phones to keep data secure and to make sure they are compliant with regulations.
PATRICIA VOWINKEL has worked for national media outlets for more than 20 years.
October 15, 2010
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