Plus factor for mobile cloud

Published on April 24, 2011 by in Technology

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By Jennigay Coetzer – Business Day, 12 April, 2011

The ability for employees to access information securely from anywhere on a mobile device is becoming a prerequisite for most businesses. Cloud computing provides this ability because the information is stored in a data centre that can be located anywhere and not on the mobile device.

“In this case, the mobile device becomes a window onto applications and data, allowing users to interact with them over the internet,” says Deon Liebenberg, MD for Africa at BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM).

Because the information is not stored on the device employees can share mobile devices, for example in the case of field workers working shifts. Mobile devices can also be used as a collaboration tool for online meetings, allowing executives to share presentations and confidential information securely, says Liebenberg.

In another scenario, an investment broker visiting customers could access their current, up to date portfolio securely on his mobile device, show it to them, discuss it, change some of the investments, and update the portfolio.

During their leisure time users can use the same mobile devices they use for work to access social networks and private emails and surf the web, without compromising company data, because everything is stored remotely and not on the device.

However, processes and procedures need to be in place to ensure the data can be accessed securely from anywhere from multiple devices, and perhaps by multiple users sharing devices, says Liebenberg. “Companies need to be able to control who accesses and updates what information and when.”

He says this requires the data to be encrypted at one end and decrypted at the other end, and users need to sign on using the same security access codes with any device they are using to access it. Controls also need to be put in place to ensure users do not leave their passwords lying around and that when employees leave the company their access privileges are disabled.

In cases where users are accessing information from an internal data centre or private cloud companies need a secure mobile solution that allows them to set up flexible policies relating to device and application usage for different user profiles, says Liebenberg. The mobile solution should also allow them to protect data, devices and the network from security threats, for example, by erasing data on a device that is lost or stolen.

However, security controls must not affect response times or prevent users from accessing information easily. “The objective of cloud computing is to move applications into the cloud and allow users to have the same experience as when they were stored on their desktop PC,” says Liebenberg.

He says some 300 models of tablet PCs are expected to be launched globally this year, which means that more information will be accessed from outside the business premises. An important factor to consider when purchasing one of these devices is that 70% of web content is enriched through the use of Adobe Flash technology to provide a good browsing experience.

The mobile device being purchased should therefore be equipped with Adobe Flash capabilities or future content enrichment technologies like HTML5.

Jennigay Coetzer is a freelance business and technology journalist with 25 years experience, and she writes regularly for Business Day. She also runs media training and writing skills workshops, and is the author of A Perfect Press Release – or Not?, a guide to writing and distributing effective press releases, an electronic version of which can be downloaded free from her website: www.jennigay.co.za.

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