Backing Up Mobile Data - It's a Must

Mobile devices get lost. And because they do, mobile data backup should be part of a complete mobile device management system your customers need. By James E. Gaskin

You fight the backup battle with nearly every customer, and finally processes are put in place to protect the data on clients' servers, desktops, and even laptops. Now, however, the nagging battleground shifts to smartphones and tablets.

“Every mobile strategy has to take into account that devices will absolutely be lost,” says Kevin Benedict, independent mobility analyst at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com. “And while companies think smartphones need a new process, it's not much different than protecting laptops like they've been doing for decades.”

Benedict's latest mobility survey found that companies need, in order of importance, better device management tools for iOS (Apple), Android (multiple hardware vendors running the software developed by Google), Microsoft's mobile OSs (Windows Mobile 7 and 7.5, with Windows 8 attracting plenty of attention), and the BlackBerry OS (still strong in many enterprises).

"While companies think smartphones need a new [backup] process, it's not much different than protecting laptops like they've been doing for decades.” Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobility Analyst, MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com

Your iOS and Android smartphone customers may believe they have backup under control without your assistance, however, using Apple's iCloud (or even iTunes), or Google Drive for Android devices. Both are free, but both are incomplete. “I won't use iCloud for business,” says Benedict.

While consumers may love the free storage they get with iCloud or Google Drive, “enterprises want to turn off iCloud and the others,” notes Marco Nielsen, vice president of services at Enterprise Mobile, a mobile services firm in Plano, Texas. “The vendors still aim at consumers, because worldwide, about one million phones per day are activated, mostly by consumers.” And consumer solutions aren't robust enough for businesses.

Enterprise Mobile works with companies that have as few as 40 devices or as many as 42,000. “Most clouds don't back up personal information management data,” says Nielsen, and enterprises are afraid of clouds and want on-premises solutions. “Their biggest fear is a cloud getting hacked,” he notes.

Larger customers often want complete mobile device management, notes Nielsen, which encompasses provisioning new phones, including adding the appropriate applications and security policies; support; remote wiping capabilities for lost devices; and even end-of-life device recycling. Nielsen also says mobile devices may not carry much data if they are properly provisioned. “Email is stored on [company] email servers, and documents tend to be backed up somewhere,” he says. “If a device is wiped, not much is lost.”

Device owners in companies with a “bring your own device” mindset may argue that last point, as employee-owned phones usually have many personal photos and contacts. Managing these phones and tablets with company software and security can become confusing if policies aren't clear to the users.

PREPARE FOR WINDOWS 8 PHONES

Karen Jaworski, senior director of product marketing at San Francisco-based online backup and cloud storage provider EVault Inc., says it's important to prepare for Windows 8 phones and tablets, “where it's even more prevalent to lock down data on mobile devices.”

While most believe tablets are data consumption devices, Jaworski feels Microsoft's Surface tablet will be different. “With that keyboard, it's much like a laptop, and we treat it that way. We can lock down the USB ports for data leak prevention, [and] apply security policies and access controls - all to keep the data safe.”

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