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October 23, 2012

Mobilizing Business Apps without the Business Risk

By TMCnet Special Guest
Paul Andersen, Marketing Manager, Array Networks

The consumerization of IT is underway. Tablets are portable, productivity-enhancing and trendy, and employees are bringing them to work in droves. Like cloud computing, mobility is causing businesses to fundamentally reassess their approach to IT.

A few years ago, IT was in the driver’s seat – issuing managed desktop PCs, laptops and mobile phones. With full control, businesses could deploy software and enact policies to ensure security and maintain compliance.

Today, employees want to use tablets and smartphones of their choosing.

Referred to as “Bring Your Own Device,” the trend is here to stay. Executives are demanding tablet access to business applications and employees are using personal devices irrespective of IT policy. This poses two challenges. The first is security; every mobile device connected to the corporate network is a threat, and every personal tablet and smart phone introduces the potential for data leakage. The second is a lack of native enterprise apps; while this will change over time, there is a significant gap between applications used in the enterprise and those available as native mobile apps.

Most security concerns arise because VPNs are used to connecting personal and mobile devices to the corporate network. While VPNs provide encrypted connectivity, they also create a tunnel through which corporate data may escape or attacks may be introduced. 

The threat is worse because it’s impossible to lock down personal devices, and also because personal devices are greater in number, so they’re more prone to becoming lost or stolen as they’re exposed on a more frequent basis to the risks of personal use.

In time, more enterprise applications will be available natively for mobile devices, but the challenge is in enabling mobility today. While it is somewhat simple to provide e-mail to mobile devices, the vast majority of applications remain tied to Windows and traditional desktop environments.

As a result, solutions aimed at enabling mobility and BYOD must address not only security concerns, but also the means by which to bridge the gap between mobile access and the applications employees use every day to complete their work.

In response, organizations are leveraging the remote desktop to extend applications running on physical or virtual desktops or terminal services to mobile devices.

From a security perspective, the approach solves both critical challenges. First, security on office desktops, managed laptops and server-based resources is already compliant. Second, unlike VPNs, using remote desktop means mobile devices never connect to the corporate network. Because data never leaves the corporate network, the risk of data leakage is eliminated, and because devices are kept off the network, the risk of attack is also eliminated.

The connection between the mobile device and the remote desktop gateway is encrypted using SSL – with the gateway itself acting as a separation layer dividing mobile devices from the corporate network.

Any application running on physical or virtual desktops can be immediately “mobilized” to provide full access to enterprise applications from personal tablets and smartphones. While the experience is not as polished as an application designed for mobile environments, it is counterbalanced by the benefits of cost-effectively supporting all enterprise applications, right now.

In the end, not all traditional enterprise applications will be developed as native mobile apps, nor will they go away. An equilibrium point will be reached. To manage this transition in the most efficient manner possible, enterprises are well served to explore solutions that enable mobilization of traditional enterprise applications today, provide a migration path to supporting native enterprise apps tomorrow and support mobile access and BYOD in a manner that is simple, scalable and secure.  

Paul Andersen is the Marketing Manager at Array Networks (www.arraynetworks.com). He has over 15 years of experience in networking, and has served in various marketing capacities for Cisco Systems, Tasman Networks and Sun Microsystems. Mr. Andersen holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from San Jose State University.

Edited by Braden Becker

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