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Mobile backup: There’s an app for that

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Device-specific ultraportable backup

Even though a PC-centric approach will protect the majority of corporate data, the plethora of applications for smartphones and tablets ensures that at least some users will continually push the devices into uses that no one could reasonably anticipate. Consequently, IT organizations shouldn’t overlook the need to back up the devices in addition to syncing them.

Let’s start with the easy part of backing up smartphones and tablets. For those devices that use an SD card, or other such storage format, users can remove the card and copy it to a PC. Of course, this requires user discipline to do so on a periodic basis. Period reminders from the help desk may be enough to foster the desired behavior.

The first thing one will notice when considering ultraportable backup is the fragmented nature of the task. Pictures, videos and music may be backed up to iTunes, Google Picasa or a PC. Application backup may go to Titanium Backup (Android) or the Apple iStore. When looking into the specifics of these backup applications, one finds that they tend to be very use-case specific. Some may back up the Android home screen, for example, while others sync contact and calendar information, and still others back up files. Users who are serious about data protection may be forced to use a suite of applications.

This fragmentation obviously makes backup of ultraportable devices more complicated. Even so, it can

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be beneficial because IT organizations can tailor solution specifications for corporate data only. User data, such as pictures, music and videos, should rightly be the responsibility of the user. However, a corporate decision to deploy a particular encryption product may interfere with user data if it encrypts the entire device. This may lead users to disable the product, thus defeating the efforts of the IT department.

The next thing one will notice when searching for ultraportable backup is a shortage of name-brand solutions. Given the tens of millions of ultraportable devices sold, it would seem to have significant market potential. Symantec offers a beta version of Norton Connect for iPad/iPhone backup in the Apple App Store. The app itself is free, but it requires a Norton Online Backup subscription. Of the other 32 applications for “data backup” in the App Store, all are boutique-type solutions that don’t appear to be geared toward enterprise deployment.

As IT organizations decide how to cope with corporate data on ultraportable devices, there are many factors to weigh. The first is how to cope with very large device populations, unpredictable connectivity and highly individualized environments. Despite these difficulties, best-practice organizations will address the need to protect corporate assets. Cloud-based solutions offer the advantages of offloading the deployment, management and support to specialists. Cloud providers will also be prepared to address the needs of enterprises.

For organizations that prefer to architect and manage their own solution, they must first decide which part of the IT organization will own and manage the solution. In deciding what tools to use, they’ll find that ultramobile backup becomes a stack of its own. By focusing on what data is valuable to the organization, much of the peripheral personal data can be ignored. The task is to reduce the number of variables to those that count and thus make enterprise deployment a manageable process.

BIO: Phil Goodwin is a storage consultant and freelance writer.

 

This was first published in December 2011

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