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Mobile Trends – Is BYOD good or bad?

I’ve been doing some research on “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD), which seems to be a new trendy thing to do. It’s pretty interesting to see how companies are dealing with the consumerization of IT, because it is shifting the entire IT culture right before our eyes.

Users (not IT professionals) are getting the latest technologies and gadgets first. It makes sense that they want to bring them to work and continue to use them. According to this 2011 survey by Good Technology, workers are willing to bear cost of the devices (as well as the service plans) if they can use them at their place of business. This presents two advantages for businesses. The savings by moving the cost to the user, rather than the company is the obvious one. For the large Enterprise, this can also mean having more cutting edge devices earlier, rather than wait on long replacement cycles once standards are agreed upon.

BYOD isn’t for every business. Those under compliance (PCI DSS, HIPAA, etc) have to enforce rules around accessing corporate data, no matter who owns the device accessing it. What happens when an employee leaves the company? What if a company needs to ensure no data goes outside the corporate network that shouldn’t? How does the business control data being shared on a social network via a smartphone when they don’t control the device? How is is this governed? What at the security requirements that must be met before any device connects to the corporate network and how are these requirements enforced? This could be a big obstacle to adoption for the Healthcare IT industry, which looks to be coming into its own and catching up with the rest of IT. The data a doctor deals with on his clinical application accessed through an iPad is obviously much different than an end user checking their fantasy football statistics.

Security is a huge concern. Symantec says it’s equivalent to the laptop surge of years ago, but ten times worse. Perhaps that is why it recently acquired Nukona and Odyssey Software. Back In 2011, Google had to remove around 50 malware-infected applications from its Android Market. A month later, Skype fell victim to a vulnerability that could let hackers swipe key information from Android-based smartphones, including users’ email addresses, contact lists and chat logs  The result of BYOD is the emergence of the “Mobile Device Platform” to establish levels of control.

BYOD presents a new set of challenges for testers. QA teams now have to verify consistency of the applications functionality across different delivery methods (traditional web app and mobile device version of the app). Patches for mobile applications are rolled out faster, meaning testing windows are even shorter than before. Performance engineers have to ensure that applications are optimized for the mobile user experience and consider the impact of various networks and carriers in good and bad reception conditions. Northway Solutions Group is tackling these and other challenges head on with the help of products from HP like Unified Functional Testing (QuickTest Professional) with JAMO’s object recognition technology for building mobile application automation frameworks, and LoadRunner/Performance Center’s recent protocol additions for mobile applications (web/http and TruClient). Adding a WAN emulation solution like Shunra for HP Software or WANEM allows for various network conditions to be emulated in a lab environment and determine how various carries and network situations will impact the mobile user experience.

What strategies have helped your company deal with the push for BYOD?

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