A recent survey conducted by Symantec of Australia and New Zealand businesses put the BYOD trend into sharper focus.
Some of the survey results echoed was what has been reported for years now. For example, 77 percent of enterprises consider business drivers as an important reason for mobile adoption, while 71 percent felt user demand was important.
Among SMBs, the story was a bit different. Only 43 percent felt the benefits of mobility outweighed the risks, and only 30 percent are using technology to implement policy to manage mobile use, including adopting information protection tools.
From Symantec’s perspective, the results indicate a market that is ripe for customers to sell to small companies that the vendor defines as anywhere from 10 to 250 users. The data security and management provider, however, thinks the opporutnities are strategic and not tactical.
“Organisations are recognising that there are benefits to BYOD, and that means an opportunity for our partners to deliver that consultative and strategic approach,” says Mark Shaw, Symantec’s principle sales consultant in New Zealand. “And then it becomes how to use Symantec tools to drive the outomce the business is looking for.”
Shaw thinks the region has passed beyond the “initial surprise” that BYOD was to a lot of end users. In his estimation, MDM solutions sufficed, but the market is looking at how to realise the benefits of mobility.
“What we’re seeing in the market after hundreds of customer meetings over the last couple years, is organisations are looking now more strategically,” says Shaw. “It’s great they’ve dealt with the device configuration aspect, now how do we realise its potential and mitigate the risks. That’s protecting the coprorate applications and data on these devices, but also protecting the identity of the user, and ensuring that the user is who they say they are.”
The feeling from at least one Symantec partner is that level of conversation isn’t happening yet.
“With one or two exceptions, we are not seeing a big push amongst our commercial clients to make BYOD a reality yet, but we do have a couple of not-for-profits for whom it is becoming important,” says Philip Adamson, managing director of Symantec partner OutSource IT in Auckland. “The technology is all there, but the understanding still has a way to go.”
OutSource IT has been a Symantec Endpoint Protection reseller since the product arrived and replaced Symantec Antivirus in 2007.
“It certainly hasn’t been without its challenges over the years,” says Adamson. “That’s with the occasional upgrade breaking other software and with the over-zealous off-shore Symantec licensing people scaring our clients by calling around expiry time because they haven’t ‘noticed’ we’ve already renewed them. But we have really not found another product which, overall, does the job any better.”
He says among OutSource IT clients, the problem is getting users to understand the security risks of allowing visitors and employees’ devices onto a network without implementing some kind of control.
“People are very used to having a wireless access point at home and the ease with which they connect, so why do they have to put a password in at work?” says Adamson. “And why are the IT providers forcing them to use a proxy server?”
OutSource IT says it will not take the approach of pushing a product to a customer but to essentially do what Symantec envisions partners doing.
“Our approach is to have some clear, cost-effective standard solutions that we can offer,” Adamson says. “Properly managed BYOD is really not cheap and reluctance to spend several thousand dollars so ‘a few people can bring their tablets to work’ is understandable.”
While customers catch up to the trends, they may use a “hybrid solution” of using access points in a “DMZ” with limited connectivity through the firewall.
“That’s bridging the gap for now, perhaps for a while until some of the more comprehensive solutions fall within the budget of our SME clients,” he says.
From Symantec’s view, the lagging adoption rate is due to reflexive attitudes toward technology in some verticals, as much as budget.
“Their culture would suggest that anything new, such as mobility, is something that they should be leery of,” says Shaw. “I think those organisations feel it’s prudent to take the approach of minimising risk, but they’ll watch what the innovators are doing in that space.”
Shaw says more resellers he deals with are starting to talk about strategy with their more reluctant customers.
“They’re not necessarily talking about tools right off the bat, but about how to make their workforce more productive with mobility,” he says. “That’s a different approach than we’ve seen traditionally. A year ago I would have said we were lacking a little in this area. They were on the whole about delivering point solutions, and tactical answers to sepcific need to what an organisation might throw out there. But there is generally a realisation among the partners that there is an opportunity to deliver at a higher level.”