IT managers grappling with bring-your-own-device policies can expect to see an explosion in the number of smartphones and tablets used by employees in the next few years.
As a result, IT shops won't be able to provide the security necessary to protect company data, says Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney.
"The number of devices coming in the next few years will outstrip IT's ability to keep the enterprise secure," he said, adding that IT workers are "going crazy" and "get into fights" over whether users should have upgrades.
To help IT cope, software vendors should create what Dulaney called "beneficial viruses" that could be embedded in corporate data carried on mobile devices. These software tools would require users to have licenses in order to access files, just as digital rights management technology does with music and video files.
Beneficial viruses would also "be smart enough" to delete the sensitive data if a device is lost or stolen, or if data winds up on an unauthorized device, Dulaney said, adding, "It's time for the SAPs and Oracles to begin thinking about doing that, and it's a lot harder than we think."
Today, IT shops use mobile device management software to monitor which mobile users are authorized to access applications and whether they can access the data outside the corporate cloud.
Some companies are relying on a browser-based approach. American National Insurance Company, for instance, recently announced that it has extended PC-based customer information to mobile devices including iPhones, iPads and BlackBerry and Android devices. Agents can use mobile devices to search insurance policies and help customers sign up for insurance.
A Web-based approach was "the easier, quicker and right thing to do, and we didn't need to tap into the native device" to add applications, said Deanna Walton, assistant vice president of field systems for the insurance firm.
This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.