A New Frontier: How Cloud Identity Management and Mobile Management Are Intersecting In Enterprises

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A few decades ago, business professionals left their work at the office when they returned home. If they required an important document, they were forced to return to their workplace, or else wrestle their way through a complex authentication process to gain digital access. Times have changed.

Thanks to the marriage of mobile devices with cloud infrastructure, the walls of the workplace have become increasingly blurred, as more and more employees are choosing to engage with their jobs while out of the office. As of 2015, there are a total of 1.3 billion mobile workers, and 32% of employees now rely on more than one device during the workday. There is also a growing camp that avoids the traditional workplace altogether, choosing instead to telecommute from home either on an occasional basis or a permanent one.

According to an experiment carried out by Ctrip on the behalf of Harvard Business Review, employees who are given the option to telecommute are more productive as a whole. They are happier, work harder, and show more loyalty than those who are held exclusively to a nine-to-five schedule. This holds true even if the majority ultimately choose to remain in the office – as was the case with Ctrip.

It’s not all roses. Although this newfound flexibility makes modern employees both happier and more productive, it also brings to the table a number of significant challenges. Businesses now must equip fleets of remote employees with secure access to critical files, applications, and resources.

And they must do so while managing an ecosystem filled to the brim with decentralized SaaS applications. Although they are easy to use, can be run from any platform, and preserve both data and context across multiple devices, these apps are nevertheless a nightmare from a security standpoint. This is because IT traditionally has little control over SaaS – meaning they cannot stop users from engaging in risky behavior.

“In most companies, IT has very little ability to see what you’re doing with your cloud apps,” explained an anonymous IT professional. “We do a lot of training, but in the end, we need the tools to make sure we’re not relying on users. They need to do their part, but we need control to make sure they don’t mess things up inadvertently.”

One cannot achieve this level of control by tightening traditional security practices. Doing so simply frustrates employees, causing them to justify further breaks from organizational security standards – as noted by Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) expert John Wetherill, frustration is a key driver in Shadow IT. Employees refuse to wrestle with inconvenient and outdated access mechanisms; they don’t want to wait until they reach their desk to utilize corporate resources.

“An increasing percentage of IT purchases, both sanctioned and unsanctioned, are being procured from outside the IT organization,” wrote Gartner in its ‘Budgeting for the SaaS Security Gap’ report from January this year. “These applications and, more importantly, the data that is processed by them also need to be accounted for thoroughly.”

Enterprises need to account for this reality, and rethink how they approach mobile management; they must implement a cross-platform, multi-device solution that provides access based on context and identity rather than on passwords. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is the key to accomplishing this, but it needs to integrate with cloud computing services in order to manage the immense volume of devices, users, and applications present in a typical organization. That isn’t all it needs, however.

In addition to being cloud-enabled, an IAM solution must also:

  • Simplify the process of mobile management: By implementing a solution that integrates seamlessly with existing MDM architecture and provides a single point of control for IT, businesses reduce organizational complexity, saving money and improving outcomes in the process.
  • Support multiple device and application types: Given the diversity of apps and devices in the modern enterprise, an IAM solution must be capable of addressing multiple device types, multiple operating environments, and a wide range of applications. Otherwise, it cannot be said to fully protect one’s organization.
  • Make things easy on the end user: If a security solution is difficult to use, employees will avoid using it; the most important qualification of IAM, then, is intuitiveness.

BES12 and Enterprise Identity Management by BlackBerry together satisfy all of these qualifications.

BES12 allows IT administrators to easily control all the mobile devices in their network from a single screen. It offers end-to-end security, effortless deployment, and support for all MDM models, from BYOD to COBO. More importantly, it’s architected to integrate seamlessly with Enterprise Identity by BlackBerry, a fully-managed IAM solution with support for a diverse selection of SaaS/internal applications and a simple-to-use frontend for employees.

By incorporating an IAM platform that integrates well with one’s already-existing EMM solution, an organization can ensure that it has the best of both worlds. It can offer its employees the convenience of a federated identity without sacrificing any control of security in the process. It can, in other words, accomplish something that traditional authentication solutions – and traditional MDM – cannot.

There’s more to securing the modern mobile enterprise than EMM and IAM, however. There’s also the matter of document control. EMM and IAM do not generally prevent the misuse of sensitive data, nor do they prevent critical documents from falling into the wrong hands. In order to effectively implement all of these solutions, you must first understand your organization’s unique mobile landscape. That’s where The CIO’s Guide to EMM comes in. Compiled through feedback from mobility analysts, security experts, and fortune 500 companies, the guide provides a comprehensive overview of how mobility is changing – and what you need to do in order to keep pace with that change.

About Nicholas C. Greene

Nicholas C. Greene is a technology writer based in Calgary, Canada. An English graduate of the University of Calgary, he's written for publications and organizations such as VPN Haus, Streetwise, Northcutt, and The Coolist.

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