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Banning iPhones Leaves Money On The Table

Like many others, I spent a couple of hours last week scanning through the gadget websites and feverishly refreshing my browser to get all of details of Apple's latest wonder, the iPad. Despite some critical panning from the pundits, gadget-friendly consumers will no doubt stand in line for hours to buy one when it ships in couple of months. For those talented folks in IT, the iPad release day will bring with it a chorus of users asking a single question: "Can I get my work e-mail on it?"  While the path of least resistance for most administrators might be to simply say no, I would like to suggest that it's time to rethink any corporate-owned smartphone policies that still exist within your organization.

AT&T just recently announced that it activated 3.1 million iPhones this past quarter. Think about that number for a minute: in the last three months, over three million people not only bought a smartphone for themselves, but actually agreed to pay for the $30/month unlimited data plan mandated for the next two years, out of their own pocket. While not every one of these users would necessarily have been blessed with a company-issued device, enabling these users to access their corporate e-mail on their devices will certainly lower the out-of-pocket wireless charges for most enterprises.  

Opening up the corporate Exchange servers to your users' mobile devices has to come with a measure of responsibility on the users' part. The odds of leaving a phone in the back of a cab, for example, is significantly more likely than misplacing a laptop. With that in mind, administrators need to be clear on their expectations of the users walking around with potentially sensitive data in their pocket. Policies need to be put into place, at least requiring a password to unlock the device, as well as the ability to remotely wipe the device if it is ever lost or stolen. If the end-user's devices don't support this base-level of security, or the users themselves are unwilling to accept that IT might clear their personal data along with the corporate information, then they simply do not get to connect. Likewise, your users should be keeping their devices current with the latest software and security updates and basically being a good citizen when it comes to the care and feeding of their handhelds.

Ultimately, user-owned mobile devices, including the iPad, offer enterprises the opportunity to mobilize their workforce without the penalty of additional operational expenses. With a little planning and awareness of the pitfalls, enterprises can make their users happy without giving away the farm.