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Tablet PCs refuel mobile security services for solution providers

Enterprises may be clamoring for mobile security services this year to handle the influx of tablets and smartphones, so you should be prepared to deliver them. But Nick Arvanitis of Dimension Data , advises there is much more a solution provider can offer to clients in terms of mobility.

Tablet PCs are the current rage, ushering in a wave of mobility and a need for mobile security services that network solution providers must prepare to tap into. Mobile security is a large opportunity and essential for enterprises to get right, says Nick Arvanitis, principal security consultant at IT solutions and services provider Dimension Data. In order to provide services around tablets and mobile security, however, solution providers will need to advise their clients on more than mere mobility -- they will need to understand how mobility benefits their clients' businesses and how it spans across all technology groups.

What are the opportunities for solution providers in terms of offering security services for mobility?

Arvanitis: The key role that any solution provider should play is an advisory one, because there is a lot of murkiness around mobility and around what's possible and what's not. Each organization has its own concerns, and each has a different level of maturity. We try to span the entire lifecycle -- starting out with consulting services around the governance, risk and compliance aspect, and how mobility will impact that. We then move on to policy and architecture, so there are things we can do to help organizations draft the appropriate mobile policy, and there are technologies we can provide and services around those to enforce those policies on mobile devices

The key aspect, once you've got that done, is testing and assessment. A solution provider can look at configurations, provide services to assess security posture of apps, etc. But the key for a solution provider should be to play a guiding role and help an organization understand where it is in that lifecycle and where it needs guidance, and then explore the options. I think trying to tackle a problem with technology alone is a big mistake.

How can channel providers help customers develop and institute mobile policy?

Arvanitis: First of all, we need to understand the goals of mobility for the organization and then see technologically whether those goals are possible. Then we start to develop use cases around each of the specific business needs that they see mobility solving. Whether its video conferencing, presentation sharing or access to data via a virtual desktop interface, we'd look at each of those angles, and then we'd look at the existing policies and procedures. Then we'd do a gap analysis and see if there is any mention of mobility specifically and look at any other areas of the organization the mobile infrastructure would touch on. It's mostly understanding the business need, looking at what's currently there, and doing a gap analysis to build a roadmap to define where there needs to be improvement.

Do networking solution providers have a role in helping their customers choose tablets and other mobile devices to issue to employees?

Arvanitis: We can play that role, but Dimension Data has multiple technology partners in the space that we work in, so we try not to influence technology decisions that much, especially when it comes to security. We could do a bake-off and show them the pros and cons of products in terms of their requirements. At the moment, Android is being raked over the coals by security researchers, and that makes sense because Android is an open platform and there is open access to the code. On the other hand, you have Apple, whose iOS is closed. So we're seeing a lot of security vulnerabilities reported in Android purely because it's an open platform and is being scrutinized. Android seems to be less secure, but we don't really know that. The key to being more secure is figuring out what management tools can be applied to the platform. That's what would guide our recommendation toward a specific technology.

What other mobile services can VARs offer their customers?

Arvanitis: Mobility touches on a lot of technology spaces. I think the big opportunity for solution providers is to guide enterprises through where mobility can impact other areas of the business. One of the things that dovetails with an organization's mobility strategy is its cloud computing strategy. If you're centralizing all your resources in a cloud computing model and offering data and services as a service, essentially via a browser, your endpoint gets modularized. Mobility becomes much more of a reality if that back-end infrastructure is in place. So I think the key for solution providers is to tie across all of those technology trends and actually turn them into reality.

I see the role of a solution provider being almost purified with the current technology trends. IT professionals need to take a much more proactive approach as technology architects, rather than technology implementers, because business is moving more toward verticals, as opposed to technology spaces. We're no longer talking about networks and servers and data centers and applications, we're talking about things like unified communications and virtualization and cloud computing. Solution providers need to be in a position to talk about each other's areas and how they affect each other.

>>Read more of what Arvanitis has to say about developing a tablet security plan and mobile policy for enterprises

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