How To Solve BYOD Headaches (And Make Money Doing It)

Proof positive that a trend is here to stay: It gets its own acronym. You won't find too many offices today in which employees aren't waltzing in the door with their own devices—sometimes more than one. The bring your own device, or BYOD, movement is so pervasive that companies have no choice but to figure out how to make it all work, how to connect their employees' personal smartphones and tablets to the corporate network while safeguarding sensitive corporate data at the same time.

Mobility-savvy solution providers have never had more doors wide open.

Defining use policies is the first of many security-related services required of solution providers in the mobility space. Mobile device management (MDM) platforms, or software offerings designed to monitor the use of mobile devices on corporate networks, are often needed to ensure the policies put in place are actually being followed, said Bob Wambaugh, director of professional services at Fremont, Calif.-based solution provider Milestone Technologies.

[ Related: BYOD Spurs Demand For Mobile Device Management Platforms, Resellers ]

Sponsored post

"I think you have to have policies for how [devices] integrate, how they work in your environment, what rules there are for bringing them onto the network. The problem I have is when customers decide that policies are the end of the problem," Wambaugh told CRN. "I tend to believe that policies are a lot like door locks. They only keep the honest people out."

Milestone Technologies is a big advocate of MDM solutions, such as those offered by Absolute Software, MobileIron and Centrify, as they allow clients to not only more closely monitor and locate mobile devices, but access them remotely when needed, he said. Put simply, MDM returns some of the device-level control to the hands of IT, even in the most complex BYOD scenarios.

NEXT: SaaS-Based MDM Solutions Soar

MobileIron has seen a sharp rise in sales of its MDM solutions over the past year, said John Donnelly, vice president of sales at the Mountain View, Calif.-based vendor, which sells 100 percent through the channel. MobileIron's SaaS-based Connected Cloud solution, which enables solution providers to manage clients' mobile fleets remotely, is taking off, especially in the small to midsize market.

"On the SMB side, we are seeing a significant uptick in the SaaS model with additional services provided," said Donnelly. "We are making a big bet that the managed services piece is going to take off significantly in 2013." Many end users prefer the SaaS model simply because they are familiar with it, Donnelly said. When Research In Motion's BlackBerry was still the crowned leader in the enterprise smartphone market, many clients grew accustomed to having their phones secured and monitored remotely by solution providers using RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server software. Now with the proliferation of Android- and iOS-based devices, they are looking for something to fill that gap.

"[MDM in a managed services model] is not something that is revolutionary in the market; this is the way a lot of larger customers in the BES world from RIM had third parties running their solutions for them," Donnelly said. The increased adoption of managed services models for MDM bodes well for MobileIron partners, he added. It still lets them offer general consulting services for clients in a BYOD environment, but also means they reap the benefits of recurring revenue streams. "There is a revenue split that we work with the partner on that provides a recurring revenue, subscription-based pricing model, long term," he said.

Jay Gordon, vice president of sales at Enterprise Mobile, a Plano, Texas-based mobile solution provider and MobileIron's first partner, said providing MDM solutions in a SaaS-based model is a win-win for both his company and his clients.

"The SaaS-based model certainly is appealing to most customers. They can pay a per-user, per-year fee, and turn it on and off as they need," Gordon said. "And for us, obviously, the ongoing administration does provide a new revenue stream, and also gives our support people greater accessibility and manageability of devices.

"Through the SaaS-based mobile model, Enterprise Mobile can remotely access devices, push out updates to them, and even them wipe them when needed, making its customer support more valuable to end users. Enterprise Mobile decided to include MDM offerings in its larger mobile portfolio as Android and iOS devices started to permeate the enterprise. MDM, he said, is essential in BYOD-enabled environments, where organizations often lack the in-house expertise to manage such a broad range of operating systems and devices. "On the MDM side, there is no alternative except solutions. You aren't going to build it yourself, you can't hire people to do it—you have to buy a tool," Gordon said. "So for us, it creates great relevance where, at a minimum, it gets us in the door because we know customers are interested."

NEXT: Mobile Data Management Data Is Key

TooBeyond mobile device management, solution providers are often tasked with providing a mobile data management solution as well. While MDM offerings provide device-level security and, in many cases, the ability to secure and manage mobile apps, they often lack the data management capabilities needed to ensure secure file sharing in the enterprise.

Noticing this gap, Campbell, Calif.-based Soonr launched Soonr Workplace, a cloud-based file-sharing solution for mobile devices. Soonr Workplace is targeted directly at enterprise users and represents another opportunity for solution providers to arm BYOD clients with a full-fledged mobile solution. "[Soonr Workplace] is really business-focused. In our space, there are consumer-grade offerings like Dropbox that are typically adopted one individual at a time," said Soonr CEO Martin Frid-Nielsen. "But what we are doing is selling into companies, and they have this need here of getting more productivity but doing so in a more controlled way.

Soonr guarantees this level of control by managing its own data centers, being HIPAA compliant, and employing heavy encryption standards. As they do with MDM, solution providers have an opportunity to offer file-sharing solutions such as Soonr Workplace in a SaaS-based model, arming themselves with yet another source of recurring revenue. Patrick Cranston, president of Cranston IT, a Pittsburgh-based solution provider and Soonr partner, said he receives revenue each month from clients' monthly services costs, in addition to the profit he brings in from training clients to use the front-end Soonr software on their mobile devices.

We do have recurring revenue off of the Soonr plan, and then, typically, we also make some money on the front end from helping them set up the software and set up their mobile devices and run through some basic scenarios for them," Cranston said.

He also stressed the difference between MDM and mobile file sharing—or mobile content management—solutions such as Soonr Workplace, explaining that both have their place in the enterprise. Clients need both solutions to truly deploy a managed and secured mobile environment, which is why he partnered with Soonr.

"You have MDM but then … there is the whole mobile content management, which we refer to as MCM, and there's not a whole lot of really good tools out there for mobile content management," said Cranston. "So we started looking for something because that's a question we were getting from a lot of customers." Cranston said this year MCM products and related services are projected to account for nearly 20 percent of Cranston IT's total revenue and climb to 50 percent over the next few years.

NEXT: Wireless Networks May Need Overhaul

Apart from MDM and policy management, ensuring clients have a robust wireless network to support a mobile workforce is a must, solution providers told CRN. Older wireless networks may not be able to handle the multitude of mobile devices pouring onto them without compromising performance, and even newer networks may require additional access points.

If you look at the amount of devices that [networks] are being attacked with, each user on average has about three," said Chris Knight, practice director of unified communications and mobility at Technology Integration Group, a San Diego-based solution provider and systems integrator. "And so to adopt [BYOD], the amount of access needs to basically quadruple, as well as the fact that we need to make sure that it's absolutely secure.

Knight explained that many of the mobile devices being brought into organizations are meant to support rich user experiences and a range of unified communications and tend to eat up a significant portion of network bandwidth. Because of this, wireless infrastructures that have been in place for years may need to be completely revamped. To determine if this is the case, Knight said he is sure to conduct initial "are-you-ready" conversations with clients, along with full architectural reviews to gauge whether current networks are BYOD-ready.

Solution providers also need to be able arm their clients with access to essential— and even custom—business applications on mobile devices.

The ability to access critical business apps on-the-go is a key driver behind the consumerization trend, and a top priority among end clients.

Technology Integration Group's Knight explained that clients generally have three choices for bringing custom business apps onto their smartphones or tablets: The first is virtualizing their PC desktops, the second is building apps and deploying them in-house, and the third is enlisting a third-party organization to build and deploy apps for them.

The first of these options traditionally has been the most popular, Knight said. But as younger generations, who rely less on Microsoft Office and Windows environments in general, continue to move into the enterprise, this will change, and the adoption of custom apps will increase.

The next big leap, I think, is going to be customizing the [application] environment for the end user on mobile devices," Knight said.

Solution providers that can offer this service—the creation of custom-built and especially line-of-business apps—can not only reel in more revenue but position themselves as a one-stop mobile shop for their customers.

NEXT: Ready For Mobile-Ready Apps

David Turlington, director of sales at Raleigh, N.C.-based managed service provider and app developer Cii Technology Solutions, said his company has seen a boost in interest in mobile-ready apps as the BYOD movement flourishes.

Requests for workflow and line-of-business apps have especially risen, Turlington continued. And even if clients aren't asking for the creation of brand-new apps, they are still seeking help bringing pre-existing apps into a mobile environment.

There is a bigger push for applications that can help them do their jobs via a phone or a tablet, and I think that the principals in these companies are realizing that even though it does cost them money, the increased efficiencies are seen as an overall benefit," he said. Rick Jordan, director of mobility sales and strategic alliances at Tenet Computer Group, a Toronto, Ontario-based solution provider, said he has seen a similar jump in the creation of custom-built apps and software. The jump has been so significant that Tenet has dedicated a segment of its business specifically to app development. "We actually have a dedicated team of development personnel here on-site," Jordan explained. "So if a client wants to look at something custom, we can do that.

For Jordan, offering custom-built mobile apps is Tenet's way of ensuring a soup-to-nuts offering for customers—a pure hardware offering, he said, is no longer enough.

If you think back five or 10 years ago, there were companies that could survive just selling hardware. But now, if you're just selling hardware, you're like a duck sitting in open water," Jordan said. "So now [it's about] doing customization, getting into software development, being an ISV … really taking care of the customer.