Tag : IT Department

Mobile Applications (Apps) for the Small to Medium Business

Over the last year BVA has been asked more than I can recall, should my organization develop a mobile app (application) for my business which is a great question to say the least.  There is a lot that goes into making one of these and it takes a true professional to develop a good app.  There are third party firms that specifically target this market and of course BVA has been contacted about partnering with such a firm.  This partnership has not taken place due to the lack of experience of some of these outfits.  We are working with a few firms in performing some trials to see their relevance and competency.  Mobile applications are the newest and the hottest topic in all the presentations I have been to and of course all the large corporations are jumping on the train which is a little scary, especially wrapped around the banking industry.  It has become a must-have addition to the arsenal of any Web-based small to medium sized business.  Mobile app downloads across all handsets worldwide are projected to approach 50 billion in 2012 which is quite shocking if you really think about it.  That much personal data being transferred over cell towers.  To really be successful in this market of mobile apps you have to be in it to win it.  If your business line or your users want to access your organization while they’re on the go, you’re going to need a mobile app eventually.   And if you want to succeed, it will take more than just shrinking your current website to create a footprint edition for smaller screens.

The process of developing your own app is quite extensive but not brain surgery. The mission here is helping people find your website and your line of business in a fast and easy way. All the while, gathering their personal information or profile. Simplicity is a mobile app or app’s best friend, creating an app that tries to mirror your website is not the correct path.  I think another large component to a successful app is being able to enter data on the fly, easily from whatever phone unit that you are using.  I hate apps that make it difficult to enter data, I literally will stop using it.  Good graphic design is a given, but it shouldn’t become a fetish to the point where it interferes with the user’s experience.  The design is crucial to creating an engaging and effective mobile site, and not too many bells and whistles.  Be aware of the screen size and resolution you are trying to achieve.  Mobile design presents very different challenges from web design, because you’re not able to spew everything out all at once. Instead you’re forced to be very thoughtful about how your content is prioritized and presented.  Some of the IT Department heads that I communicate with stress how important to have an in-house person that knows the application well and was involved during its coding and conception.  My friend tells me that it constantly needs to be updated and changed due to user requests and organizational needs.

iPad and iPhone Can Be a Security Risk

BVA has found that these types of mobile devises if not provisioned correctly can seriously be a security risk to your network environment.  Security policies need to be set forth to ensure security at all levels of access.  Apple iPad tablet device as well as the iPhone is slowly becoming a legitimate business tool, your employees will soon have them in hand and invade your business. The reality is that the iPhone changes the playing field for security and really surprised IT consulting companies and their administrators when it got released.   The users needs versus wants changed completely where being able to have a Smartphone that just sync’s calendars, contacts, and emails changes drastically. The iPhone hit the scene and next thing we were getting requests for it to be integrated into a businesses mail environment immediately. These requests were coming from owners and directors, decision makers were being demanding about making it work, totally side-stepping the security protocols set forth by years of experience and best practice.  The bottom line is that the line between corporate tool and consumer gadget has not just been blurred; it has been completely erased.  There have been several studies that have shown that when asked, the iPad and iPhones present the greatest smartphone security risk for IT.  It’s a scary thought that you have locked down your environment but since a new gadget gets releases to the market and owners want it, it diminishes the integrity of the system.

There was recently a few contents by security outfits where they had people hack the iPhone in less than 2 minutes and won a cash price.  This is a scary thought and quite frankly shows how easy it can be for the non-hacker.  Obviously it might take a little longer from a less talented hacker but it can clearly be done.  Apple has little intention to make their OS more secure because it’s not the market that they are targeting.  Again they are targeting the consumer, not the business enterprise.  I am sure there will be a point in time when that day comes but it is not in the near future.  If Apple at the very minimum addressed just the enterprise security, supportability requirements, and new hardware level encryption.  I want to be very clear that the OS on the iPhone is the same as the iPad as well as its security. Apple targeted the iPad primarily as a media consumption gadget for the residential consumer, not the business community but again we have seen this shift.  I am not saying that you should ban the iPhone or iPad but develop policies and procedures that address the rules of engagement for integrating the iPad with your network environment.

As you develop the policies, keep in mind that the iPad is unique and could fall into a few different areas for policies.  Here are some key points to keep in mind:

•    delivers notebook-like functionality
•    smartphone OS platform
•    normally placed in the policy bucket for computer usage and security policies, not recommended
•    a good policy bucket to consider – smartphone usage and security policies (recommended)
•    same smartphone OS was hacked in less than 2 minutes

Make sure that whatever policy selected addresses the most important factor here which is allowing or denying the storage of confidential or sensitive information on the iPad, or how e-mail, instant messaging and other communications conducted through the iPad fit within archiving and compliance requirements.