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BYOD may be SOP, but it's still a headache for IT

Ellen Messmer | May 14, 2014
Just because BYOD has become standard operating procedure in most workplaces doesn't mean the practice has stopped causing challenges for IT.

Just because BYOD has become standard operating procedure in most workplaces doesn't mean the practice has stopped causing challenges for IT.

Take San Francisco-based law firm Hanson Bridgett LLP, for example, whose attorneys perform legal work in the healthcare industry and must adhere to the federal HIPAA and the HiTech Act standards, among others. According to the firm's IT director Chris Fryer, that means the Apple and Android smartphones and tablets that its attorneys use need to be managed so that the corporate data on them is encrypted and can be wiped if needed. But no one wants to interfere with the personal data on those privately owned mobile devices.

"We manage just the corporate data and leave the rest alone," says Fryer. That's done by using mobile-device management (MDM) software from Good Technology and its "containerization" component so that the corporate apps and data on each device is encrypted and cordoned off from the personal data.

But as much as Fryer has found the Good Technology MDM to be effective, there are still hurdles, he says. Each MDM vendor's APIs for containerization need to be supported in the mobile apps, which is not always the case, he says.

"It's an imperfect word," says Fryer, noting that lack of standards in MDM and mobile apps combined with the plethora of MDM vendors — by some counts there are more than 150 — has made this a tough terrain.

In addition, Fryer points out his law firm relies on Microsoft Office applications to prepare complex legal documents. But Microsoft didn't launch Office for iPad until late March, and in a way that's tied to a subscription for Microsoft 365 cloud service. Fryer is watching how that will unfold.  "We're trying hard to edit documents on an iPad," says Frye. "We want to make sure that will happen in a container."

Fryer says there also can be issues with how e-mail clients work with MDM.

"Some MDM vendors allow you to use the native e-mail client," says Fryer. "You can put up Google mail and also your corporate e-mail for that." But Frye says the Good Technology containerization requires the use of Good's email component to securely control e-mail, which can be problematic to end users accustomed to something else.

All of these challenges mean that despite the positive experience that the law firm has had with Good's MDM technology, there's still cause to keep an eye out for something new. Many businesses are up for trying new BYOD security possibilities for e-mail and calendaring.

First United Security Bank, based in Alabama, has long been in the practice of making sure any desktop e-mail with sensitive data is encrypted when sharing with business partners. That's done with the ZixCorp e-mail encryption service that lets pre-authorized senders and receivers encrypt and decrypt e-mail.  

 

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