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A Focus On Apps

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How to control usage on company-owned devices

Historically, where employee-owned devices are concerned, company efforts to protect data and assets on mobile de­vices have focused on controlling the ac­tual devices. That is changing, however. Today, there is a growing realization among businesses that implementing comprehensive protection also means enacting some form of control over the apps employees use on those devices.

How to control usage on company-owned devices

How to control usage on company-owned devices

Why be concerned

Why bother controlling app usage? In a word: security. Primarily, compa­nies fear that employees will down­load malicious apps that introduce any number of exploits that could enable a hacker to take control of the device. There's also the worry that employees could make company data vulnerable by using apps that share and sync.

"It's becoming increasingly difficult to separate corporate technology use from personal technology use, regard­less of who owns the device," says Mike Battista, research analyst with Info Tech Research Group (www.infotech.com). "This is particularly true when you bring the cloud into it. If an app be it an actual downloaded app or just a Web service-stores data in the cloud, it doesn't matter that it's a company-owned device. The data all goes to where the employee wants it to. That can be a problem if there is informa­tion the business wanted to keep within company walls."

Companies more apt to be concerned about app control are those with pro­prietary/confidential data at risk and those under scrutiny of regulations. "Honestly, almost all companies have data they want or need secured, but those companies who are in heavily reg­ulated industries are the groups who are the most concerned," says Christian Kane, analyst with Forrester Research (www.forrester.com). "Smaller companies tend to have a more laissez-faire attitude towards device and app security to a certain extent, but really it's dependent on the company."

Why companies don’t monitor

Considering what's at stake, why don't all companies that deploy mo­bile devices also monitor and control employee app usage? "First, most com­panies aren't using a large number of mobile applications, and a majority of their workforce isn't using company apps that are available," says Kane. "This means that they don't nec­essarily have mobile apps as a high priority, and most firms today aren't monitoring apps." Most companies, he says, still focus only on mobile de­vice management, and most MDM so­lutions don't enable tracking all app usage, only identifying what apps are installed.

Additionally, monitoring app usage can prove difficult. "Without actively seeking out an MDM or MAM [mo­bile application management] solution, keeping track of app installation and usage on employee devices (even if the devices are issued by the company) is not easy to do," Battista says. Despite increasingly more companies using MDM and MAM solutions, many com­panies still don't see an immediate ad­vantage to doing so, he says.

monitoring app usage can prove difficult

monitoring app usage can prove difficult

Kathryn Weldon, principal analyst for enterprise mobility with Current Analysis (www.currentanalvsis.com), says that depending on the number of apps in use, implementing a MAM solu­tion may not be worth the effort. "It depends on how many apps you even allow your users to use," she says. "[If] you have less than five apps that you're worried about, [then] maybe it's not worth it." But if you have a fairly large number of apps, she adds, and notice employees are bringing in their own de­vices for interacting with both personal and corporate data, "there is the para­noia that should probably kick in at that point to figure out some way to lock down the personal and business data."

Measures of control

Though some companies have yet to adopt an MDM or MAM solution, it is likely companies will seek out solu­tions with application control function­ality as app reliance among employees grows. IDC has forecast that global rev­enue from MEM (mobile enterprise management) software, which includes both MDM and MAM components, will grow from $444.6 million in 2011 to $1.8 billion by 2016.

Battista sees "application manage­ment as an increasingly emphasized part of MDM." Regardless of terms and acronyms used, he says, "I'm seeing vendors racing to offer functionality that goes beyond basic MDM." Many MDM vendors, he says, promote their corpo­rate app stores and app management as a differentiating feature."

Weldon's recent research breaks down vendors offering MAM abilities into functional categories, including:

§  Vendors that offer MAM solutions but also operate an app store

§  Vendors that focus on mobile appli­cation development but also offer MAM or app store integration

§  Vendors that lead with mobile se­curity and use app wrapping to ad­dress MAM

§  MDM vendors that incorporate MAM capabilities

For SMBs, she says, MDM vendors that incorporate MAM abilities are probably the best fit currently. For com­panies already investing in MDM solu­tions, Weldon adds, "you can probably go to the next step with them."

Early days

As MAM is still in its early stages, Kane says, most companies have yet to adopt a solution. As companies build more mobile apps in their environ­ments, though, there will be a greater need for both app management and app distribution/delivery solutions such as corporate app stores. Approaches now available include vendors that use an SDK to allow developers to leverage their management tools. To date, this approach has probably been offered most, Kane says, because the solution is often tied to MDM or other mobile solu­tions, although it does "require different versions of each application you want, and if multiple management firms are offering an SDK, it gets tricky."

Most companies will not deploy both MDM and MAM, but will choose the service that is more in sync with their particular needs.

Most companies will not deploy both MDM and MAM, but will choose the service that is more in sync with their particular needs. 

In addition to application wrapping, "which is basically putting a policy/se­curity wrapper around a given applica­tion," Kane says, a third vendor type is offering "virtual workspace containers" that essentially let companies install all corporate apps in a separate con­tainer on the device so that work and personal apps don't interact. Currently, app wrapping is drawing considerable interest and will probably get significant traction moving forward "because it lets you be a bit more agile in terms of the apps you put in there," Kane says.

Ultimately, Battista foresees vendors offering device, app, and document management functions "under the same umbrella, either as bundles or allowing businesses to pick and choose a la carte. I'm not sure which acronym will win out for describing that set of features, but many vendors will at­tempt to be a one-stop shop for all of them."

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