As more and more employees show up at work with their own smartphones, tablets or mobile devices -- and ask for access to corporate data, applications and networks -- IT managers are faced with a big challenge: how to support consumer technology at work while maintaining control of sensitive corporate data.
That's one of the main topics this week at the Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise (CITE) Conference in San Francisco. The conference began yesterday and runs through tomorrow. It was created by IDG Enterprise, which includes Computerworld.
At issue is the fact that 83% of companies that support a "bring your own device (BYOD) to work" policy also allow employees to use their devices for both personal and business purposes. And 40% of those same companies allow employees to access and store confidential corporate data, according to Terri McClure, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG).
For example, users are choosing their own software applications in place of IT-sanctioned business tools, particularly for online file sharing and project collaboration. And corporations are supporting those moves. Service providers such as SugarSync, Box.net and DropBox that allow file-sharing in the cloud are red-hot, according to McClure.
"Corporations are behind the eight ball in finding out half of their employees are using services like DropBox," said McClure, who is speaking about online file storage and collaboration tools at the conference this week.
Among the more than two dozen speakers at CITE are Tony Lalli, infrastructure architect at the Bank of New York Mellon; Dave Malcom, CISO at the Hyatt Hotels; Brandon Porco, CTO of IT at Northrup Grumman; Kevin Jones, consulting social and organizational strategist at NASA's Marshall and Goddard Space Flight Centers; and Mike Brown, director of corporate development at Twitter.
According to McClure, ESG is tracking 20 file-sharing vendors -- and it's finding that companies are increasingly opening up access to those external file-sharing services.
"Corporations just don't want to have their [users] go through the VPN," she said last week in an interview. "They're saving a bundle in VPN costs by not having everyone have to log in to the VPN, and the end users are happy because they can use any device and they don't have to deal with the performance hit."
McClure said many cloud storage providers are also racing to build tools offering corporate control of end-user file sharing. That way, if a user loses a mobile device or leaves the company, the data can be wiped in the cloud instead of from the device itself.
But for most companies, employees are still able to download confidential information onto their mobile devices.
Philippe Winthrop, managing director of The Enterprise Mobility Foundation, said the issue is not one of technology. It's all about policy.