Which mobile cloud approach is right for your company?

A mobile cloud computing strategy can help workers be more productive on the go, but it's OK for some apps and data to stay on-prem.

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It is imperative to enable mobile employees by making sure they have seamless remote access to all of their work, but that doesn't mean everything needs to be in the cloud.

Cloud computing has been around for several years now, and it is still a topic of discussion among enterprise decision makers -- especially now, with the growth of mobility. Most companies are still trying to find the appropriate mobile cloud computing strategy to make sure their employees are more productive and their data (and their customers' data) is secure.

Doing so could mean that remote workers have a combination of mobile apps, remote access to other systems and secure email, for example. Business leaders and IT managers need to think about their enterprise architecture and how to make their employees more productive in the mobile era. Here is the tiered mobile cloud approach I have seen most often in the enterprise:

Mobile email

Email access is the first mobile technology that companies usually tackle. The typical company has Microsoft Exchange and provides access to email through Outlook Web Access (for PCs) or through ActiveSync or enterprise mobility management software (for mobile devices).

This approach isgood, because remote email access extends the workday and makes employees more productive out of the office. But it isn't enough. Emails only take you so far. To do real work, employees need access to files and a place to save and access them from anywhere.

Document storage in the mobile cloud

The next step that organizations may take to enable mobile productivity is to offer some sort of document storage. Typically enterprises use IT-friendly services such as Box or Citrix ShareFile, which give them some administrative control over what data users can access.

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There are so many factors that determine a company's approach in this area. Do the documents being stored contain personally identifiable information? Are there third-party applications that integrate with the storage platform? Are the documents stored in the public cloud or are they behind the firewall? In on-premises storage scenarios, offering VPN access through a mobile app such as SharePlus, which provides mobile access to SharePoint, may be a better option.

Mobile data access is great, but it usually does not provide the same experience as working from a PC on a desk in the office. More stringent security rules for remote workers, which may require the use of security tokens and additional logins, can diminish the user experience.

Integrated mobile apps

The pie-in-the-sky vision for IT and end users is a workplace where native and Web applications seamlessly access information from anywhere, users can edit these documents on any device, and more back-end systems (such as mobile device management and customer relationship management) are hosted in the cloud.

This mobile cloud computing strategy can increase productivity, improve employee morale and scale endlessly to accommodate growth. There is still concern, however, because some of these advancements may not be possible in companies that place a premium on security and do not trust third parties to store or process their data.

The hybrid cloud approach can overcome some of these roadblocks. This model allows organizations to grant access to certain services in the public cloud while keeping other systems on-premises, under the company's control. From a cost perspective, it may be useful to keep legacy systems in a private cloud and deploy new applications in a public or hybrid cloud environment.

Choosing the right mobile cloud strategy is not an easy task. The best method is to look at how your employees work and develop an approach that keeps your data secure while maximizing productivity.

This was first published in December 2013

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