Enterprise mobility management (EMM) can encompass a broad range of functions, from managing mobile devices, to applications, expenses, personnel, and policies. But perhaps the most important aspect is mobile information/data/content management, tracking the distribution and usage of sensitive organizational data, as well as ensuring appropriate security and policy compliance.
Over the past few years, however, a veritable wild west of online storage and file-sharing services have intensified the already chaotic and historically uncontrolled realm of content distribution and sharing - Dropbox and the ubiquitous USB memory key have transformed into the poster children for all manner of threats and challenges to data security and the integrity of IT operations.
Add in BYOD, and without adequate controls many organizations can kiss their secrets goodbye.
The solution, though, can appear tricky: banning the use of all such storage services and devices would likely be counterproductive to both operations and morale, and perhaps encourage even risker workarounds.
+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD How to prepare for cloud-based enterprise mobility management +
What's needed, then, is a service that centralizes and unifies online and cloud-based storage and distribution mechanisms under a single policy and operational umbrella and, in a nutshell, this is exactly what Averail Access does.
The range of capability and control is remarkable and Averail Access is delivered as a cloud-based service (including, very importantly, managed offline operations), meaning that any concerns regarding availability, scalability, and cost-effectiveness are easily addressed.
We evaluated Averail Access by signing up for a free trial. The process takes only a few seconds, including downloading the required app. Averail is currently focused on iOS, and iOS 7 is required. An Android client is also available but in preview (beta) at the moment, Windows support is slated for later this year and an HTML5 client is planned as well for universal access with no app required.
We used an iPhone 5, downloading the app (there are several of these, depending upon your specific needs) from Apple's App Store. The app creates a secure container, again centrally managed in the cloud, enabling offline storage access as desired by the user and enabled by policy.
In addition to the app, there's a Web-based console that provides the visibility and control required to make a solution like this viable, easy to use, and cost-effective. Among the features included are Active Directory integration, selective wipe and even the expiration of content in the secure container, and, of course, encryption of that content as well.
Averail Access currently supports SharePoint, Box, Dropbox, Salesforce, shared network drives, and more, with the final decision as to what services are available and how they are used subject to IT-defined policies, which can be set by individual folder, device, and user.
This flexibility is key we're still in the early days of mobility management, and individual IT shops need the ability to define management and control specifics that meet their individual philosophies and objectives.
Extensibility is also important, as new services are likely to continue to appear for some time. Averail Access can be thought of as a framework enabling this extensibility, again, and importantly, subject to central management and policy control.
The Averail client is very intuitive and simple to use; it would be hard to imagine that any training or even support would be required for anyone familiar with a smartphone. I tried opening and viewing documents; the operations were fluid, and detailed information on each file is also available. Want to make a specific file available for offline viewing? Just tap the "star" icon next to the file, and that's that.
I also added my personal Dropbox account to the demo account, and the process again was simple: tell Averail Access about the account, log in, and that's it everything integrated under a single management umbrella. This couldn't be easier!
The next test was to download and annotate a PDF file, returning it to the cloud (which is, by the way, implemented via SharePoint in the Demo implementation) when done. Again, pretty simple although I did notice one small bug in viewing the annotation; this was traced to a difference between iOS 6 and 7 and will be fixed - new releases occur every six weeks. And the annotation of Office files is also on the way, something most would clearly like to have.
I also tried the federated search feature that makes searching across all connected storage simple, and it worked as advertised, even searching the linked Dropbox account. The responsiveness of the service overall was excellent.
The Demo site available via the free trial contains User Guides and additional information useful to evaluators. Overall, though, Averail Access is one of the friendliest, easiest-to-use mobile information management systems I've seen.
In summary ease-of-use, central control, policies enforced by the client, reports and audit trails, (very) rapid deployment, and, oh yes, low cost: just $10 per month per user. I literally could not find anything to dislike, and, while the service itself continues to evolve rapidly, Averail Access should absolutely be on your list of mobility management solutions to consider.
Mathias is a principal at Farpoint Group, a wireless advisory firm in Ashland, Mass. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.