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Educators Tackling Mobile Device Challenges

In a new report from Forrester Research, Building An Effective Mobile Device Management Strategy For Education, one thing is clear: when it comes to managing the myriad of devices attached to its networks, the education sector is facing tough challenges. "It’s even more crucial for the education industry over the next 12 months because the number of post-PC devices, such as slates, tablets, netbooks, and smartphones, has already eclipsed traditional PC devices, such as desktops and notebooks.”

In fact, Forrester reports that “with this surge in post-PC devices that do less but do it in more places, IT managers no longer have the authority to veto the use of mobile devices or limit use to a specific brand or operating system.” The researchers say that more than 80 percent of the 55 survey participants responsible for IT decisions in the education sector “have already implemented or are planning on implementing mobile device management solutions that can scale across all devices, regardless of who actually owns the hardware.”

Educational institutions are providing smartphones and slates to incoming students, teachers, and administrators. They’re putting slates in libraries and labs, and phasing out printed textbooks. Lecture notes are now posted online, as are audio files. Of course, traditional applications are still immensely popular, including e-mail and calendar applications.

The problem is that these mobile devices are filled with sensitive information, including financial data (think scholarship information, tuition accounting, credit card payments for room and board, and the like). Forrester estimates that “educational institutions are at risk of a data security breach that could ultimately cost more than $1 million in data loss notifications and remediation services.” That could explain why 95 percent of security decision-markers in the education sector say data security is among the top priority at their institution over the next 12 months (followed by managing vulnerabilities and threats and business continuity/disaster recovery).

The survey, sponsored by Fiberlink (a mobile device management vendor), found that the surge in mobile device use is -- probably to no one's surprise -- also having an impact on IT support. “Three out of every four IT decision-makers reported that they have to invest 20 or more hours every week on supporting mobile devices” (the figure includes inventorying devices and ensuring compliance). The researchers say the education market is looking at cloud-hosted mobile-as-a-service solutions that may be faster to deploy and support strong password policies and full disk encryption. Also key among mobile management features: remote lock/wipe and activity visibility and management -- for everything from laptops and smartphones to netbooks and tablets.

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted by Jim Powell on 03/28/2011

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