Is the explosion in portable functionality a boon for business or a data-security nightmare? We delved into the blogosphere to find out: are smartphones good for business.
That fewer teens and tweens are blogging these days may be a good thing for the long-term health of the weblog. Long before every man, his dog and the dog's racy alter ego had an online diary, blogging was the preserve of those in the know. It remains the case today: if you want to test the pulse of the technorati, see what expert bloggers are saying.
So faced with the vexing question outlined above, we donned our blogging trousers and took a look:
The first posting to catch our eye was the case for the defence from eSay Mobile, an ICT consultancy based in the north west. Poster 'Cathy' describes "stable mobile OS, massive storage options, larger screens, enhanced performance" as just some of the "major advantages" of smartphones in the business world.
Citing the convergence of smartphone and PDA, the article stresses that smartphones have improved a great deal, and offer greater "productivity and efficiency" to the workforce. How?
"Smartphones are portable and can be easily carried along wherever you go. Today, smartphones feature numerous connectivity options such as GPRS, EDGE, 3G and Wi-Fi etc. These connectivity options enable users to check their emails, surf the internet and share business data over a wireless network. Additionally, you can also backup and synchronise your data from and to your desktop or laptop."
Which is all very positive. You really can't argue with that feature set - but with great power comes great responsibility, grasshopper. If it is that easy to make data portable, it's at least as easy to lose or steal it.
Respected IT journalist Rick Broida agrees, saying on his Bnet blog: "Wonderful as they are, smartphones are also inherently insecure devices."
He in turn points to a piece by Cnet's Elinor Mills, which highlights seven security risks caused by smartphone use.
Mills points out a range of risks from viruses (practically non existant) to social engineering (look, don't be stupid).
But the number one biggest smartphone security risk is, according to Elinor (and me), losing the damn thing. And therein lies the problem for businesses - if you equip your workforce with the ability to carry and edit important documents, you give them the opportunity to leave them on the nightbus, drop them down the loo or wave them around in front of a mugger.
Trouble is, businesses don't have any choice. According to CIO's Martin Veitch all smartphones are business phones now, whether your IT department knows it or not. Your humble author often works on an Apple iPhone paid for from his own, threadbare pocket. And my wife can't be alone in having a work bought (and administered) BlackBerry, as well as a personal iPhone. (Naturally, she passes data between the two according to her need.)
So the question of whether smartphones are good for business or otherwise is moot. They offer unparalleled functionality and mobility, at a potential cost to security. But whether you like it or not, they're in your business, and they're here to stay. Get over it grandad.
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