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It's The Data! Lessons in Enterprise Mobility

Focus your security efforts on your company's critical business data

Agile businesses are scrambling today as employees bring their shiny new personal mobile devices into the workplace and want to use them to get their work done. But the wide variety of mobile devices used by those workers can make it tough for IT departments to support all of them while providing the required security for the corporate data.

The answer instead is to make the brands and models of those devices irrelevant to your IT teams by focusing your security efforts on your company's critical business data rather than on all those pesky devices. To do that, your company can set up employee mobile devices with secure data "containers," or safe areas, for secure data access and storage. In such containers, critical business data can be stored, encrypted, tightly protected and managed and would only be accessible via secure user names, passwords and other authentication methods.

That's the idea behind data containerization, where less-secure methods such as mobile VPNs can be left behind and replaced with true data security at the data level, rather than at the device level.

With this approach, even if a mobile device is lost, stolen or otherwise compromised, the data is inaccessible to rogue entities. With the corporate data stored inside a mobile "container" on the device, the information is inaccessible without the proper authentication. With a data container, your IT department won't ever again be faced with having to remotely wipe the entire mobile device so that you lose your favorite applications or cherished photos.

Using containerization technology, which uses digital certificates and relies on the same standardized Kerberos authentication that Microsoft has adopted for its single sign-on protocol, corporate IT departments can establish safety for their data while maintaining flexibility and agility for their workforce. The secure data can't be accessed by a device that's not configured and secured by the corporate IT team.

Just how important is this approach for enterprises with growing teams of mobile workers?

It's huge, says Kevin Benedict, an industry analyst with Netcentric Strategies in Boise, Idaho. Because of mobile data security worries, many companies look at keeping as little data as possible on the devices by opting for cloud-based services, he says. But that doesn't work when your field service employees are on the road in areas where mobile access is spotty and they need their mission-critical customer data with them.

"These heavy-duty, rugged users require offline data storage," Benedict says. "So you have to protect the data and content on the mobile devices. The mission-critical, heavy-duty workers will always require data storage on the mobile devices."

If your company is ready for enterprise mobility with true mobile data security for the workforce, then containerization has to be on the short list of technologies to make it happen today. Starting now, it's no longer necessary to worry about how to defend thousands of mobile devices from myriad threats that can be found everywhere.

Today, it truly is all about the data. And that's not so stupid.

More Stories By Naeem Zafar

Naeem Zafar is founding CEO of Bitzer Mobile, the latest in a series of six start-ups that he's founded and/or managed. He's also served as president/CEO of three venture backed technology companies, and has been a board member/advisor to 35 companies. Naeem teaches entrepreneurship at the University of California, Berkeley, and has published six books on entrepreneurship. He holds degrees in E.E. from Brown University and the University of Minnesota.

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