You might have a notebook, plus a smartphone loaded up with the latest enterprise applications, Web cams and TVs just begging to be used for something other than MasterChef. You might find yourself on the road often, away from the corporate or home office network, but there’s no escape from your day-to-day responsibilities. You’re a prime candidate for a mobile or remote unified communications solution, and just one example of a growing market. IDC predicts the number of mobile workers will pass the one billion mark this year and reach 1.2 billion by 2013– a substantial number by any measure.
With vendors such as Cisco investigating ways to bring high-end technologies like telepresence into the home, and plenty of work being done to turn smartphones into miniature office desks complete with email and presence, just what is the value in a mobile unified communications solution, and what are customers looking for?
The issues with remote UC One of the most obvious initial concerns a customer might have will be the security of a remote UC solution: The more mobile or geographically disparate the workforce, the greater the potential for something to be lost. Suddenly, all kinds of confidential data accessed while on the move – such as emails – can end up in the wrong hands.
On top of this are broader management concerns. Bringing a new range of devices into the organisation increases complexity around maintenance and support. A simple example is the challenge inherent in supporting RIM BlackBerry, iPhone and Android smartphones. As well as operating off three different platforms, individuals within the organisation are going to have their own preferences for what they want to use, creating an ad-hoc mix of handsets that needs to be supported and secured on the network.
As a result, marrying the various vendors, applications and end-user preferences together in a safe and properly-supported manner is a barrier to adoption.
“It [mobile UC] is a really great solution to have, and it makes sense to have everything on your mobile devices, but there are a lot of challenges that need to be overcome,” Frost and Sullivan research director, Audrey Williams, said. Thankfully, it’s an issue that has been recognised by the industry at large.
“A lot of companies today are talking about richer applications – look at vendors such as Apple with its iPhone, RIM with its BlackBerry, Nokia and HTC,” Williams said. “All these vendors are also developing deep relationships with the big unified communication players out there – they’re working with the likes of Cisco, Microsoft and IBM on integration and collaboration. There’s a lot of activity taking place.”
Organisations will also need to consider how close those devices are to the worker, or how necessary they are to do business. Devices like smartphones or notebooks support a range of personal applications such as music, games and access to personal contacts and social networking. Management of the business and personal applications is therefore important – a business will need to be able to deactivate enterprise features if the worker changes roles to a different company, for instance.