August 24, 2004, 9:46 AM — Network managers have had to adjust to a number of changing dynamics over the last decade when it comes to keeping their corporations and organizations connected. A bombardment of new software products, constant upgrade requirements, the revolutionary model of online communication, heightened security threats -- the list is nearly endless.
Perhaps no other technology revolution has impacted the day-to-day lives of network pros, however, than that of the so-called mobile office. While it can't be denied that a large number of workers still come to their offices at nine and go home at five, conducting much of their work at the comfort of their desks, the number of people taking their work with them away from the office has skyrocketed in recent years.
Whether it's a line of laptops that are out with executives on business trips or stressed out managers burning the midnight oil at home, or a fleet of PDAs on the road with a firm's delivery trucks, mobility is a fact of life for today's corporations. While the development has been a boon to productivity figures, it has also created a host of new problems for the network managers who have to keep the often unwieldy mass of technology together.
Perhaps the biggest worry that accompanies such an itinerant group of technology products is the security problem it opens up. Once devices fly the corporate coop and are left in the often Luddite-ish hands of end users, a large degree of control over those devices is suddenly taken from the network manager. Devices can be lost, damaged or tampered with, leaving the possibility open that the data residing on them can be compromised.
The best that a net manager and his or her team can do is educate users on the necessity of treating mobile devices as cautiously as they would the technology that they use inside the office, and fool-proof the gadgets as thoroughly as possible using some of the many appropriate products available for that purpose.
Fortunately, there is a good crop of enterprise software available today that can aid in the management of all devices across an enterprise, including those of the mobile variety. Packages from firms such as Computer Associates International Inc. and IBM Corp. are offering network trackers the ability to see exactly what is making up their networks, how much these resources are under- or over-utilized, and even what kind of return on investment they are bringing to the enterprise.
Other offerings, such as some of the latest storage vendors' wares, have had a degree of intelligence incorporated into their fabrics, allowing for easier adds, moves and changes to be carried out on all devices, including mobile ones.