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Cloud storage for mobile devices

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Workers are more mobile than ever and taking data along on a variety of devices that require new methods of delivering, protecting and backing up corporate data.

Hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil has been the traditional IT approach to remote and mobile backup. Because mobile devices are easily stolen or lost, or may be dropped or damaged in some other way, the data they carry is in jeopardy at almost any given time. Nearly every mobile user can cite an instance of data loss and the risk continues to grow. A few years ago, typical users were limited to a single laptop; today, most also carry a tablet device and smartphone. Three devices means triple the odds that something will happen to one of them. And all those mobile gadgets may contain corporate assets of undetermined value or provide access to them.

Recently, a colleague on a business trip stepped out of his rental car for a quick lunch. A smash-and-grab thief made off with his bag, including a corporate laptop and an iPad. This colleague had

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dutifully backed up his data regularly to an external solid-state drive (SSD) and various thumb drives -- but those were also in the stolen bag. Gone in the proverbial instant was every copy of every document he had created over the previous two years, including some sensitive ones. His company had no corporate mobile backup strategy. Chances are the thief was only interested in quickly “flipping” anything saleable, not the data. Nevertheless, the moral of the story is that even tech-savvy users who properly back up data aren’t immune to data loss.

If data loss is inevitable and users harbor hundreds of gigabytes of unprotected data, why are IT organizations so reluctant to address the issue? Probably because it’s so difficult to implement a corporate strategy. Users are also notorious for failing to back up data even when facilities to do so are available, and IT is still wary of problems that can significantly impact user help desk call volumes. It’s simply easier to let user error and neglect remain the user’s problem. Willful ignorance, however, is never a best practice.

As my colleague’s incident indicates, data backup is by no means the entire solution. Dealing with mobile data is a data management problem. Stolen laptops represent a significant risk to corporate security because it’s very easy to get data off a laptop even when it’s password protected. And laptops often have cached access credentials that provide easy access to corporate networks.

Addressing these issues, or at the very least minimizing them, need not be onerous. Cloud-based data protection services give IT groups viable options for complete hosted services that can deliver best-practice functionality with minimal impact on the IT staff.

This was first published in September 2012

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