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Author's profile photo Ian Thain

Data Connection & Usage, the Life Blood of Mobility

Now that Mobility is part of our lives, we are all hooked on our Smartphone or Tablet device and take them everywhere we go, but we need to be aware of something that we almost take for grantedData Connection and Usage! Especially if we are going abroad and hit the tricky subject of Data Roaming, which can become a very expensive situation personally and corporately. Mobile devices give us access to fantastic content that can be delivered and displayed to our Converged Mobile Devices (CMD’s). In the past the Cellular Providers made their money on calls and SMS, but for a while now their new cash cow is data and we are hooked!

Lately Instant Messaging from a Mobile device for example with Apple’s iMessage etc, has started to increase. Though not to the extent that we are seeing SMS message volumes falling noticeably, but for sure this trend will continue to increase. Though as I have eluded to already, the picture is much bigger than that, enter the myriad of Mobile Applications that we are addicted to now as Consumers and give such a great advantage in the Enterprise as Prosumers. So with our new found addiction to Mobile Apps and the always-on culture, the Cellular Providers will see data volumes increase along with their revenues. We as the end users of Mobility need to be aware.

What should be at the back of our minds as the Mobile User? Well for the Consumer user who personally pays their own bill, turn data roaming off or either buying a ‘bolt-on‘ that will give access to data at a reduced cost, if you cant be without that online experience. Or for the Enterprise user, who gets their bill paid by the Company, who is always traveling and may need to that data at all times, it is tricky call. Such a call is usually discussed and documented in a companies Mobile Governance or Mobile Usage Policy and it is good for a company to have control.

What is available as a proactive solution in the Enterprise, to negate this tricky call? Well, Remote Security measures as part of Mobile Device Management & Security (MDM) is something that should be factored into any Enterprise Mobility Strategy from day #1 & an important part of that should also control Data usage and as part of that… Telephone Expense Management (TEM) and Roaming Management (RM). TEM can capture the information of Call, Data & SMS/MMS usage and give the ability to export that data into Corporate Telephone Systems such as QuickComm. RM, which is a subset of TEM, can detect the roaming state of a mobile device, where it is, when it changes in and out of roaming and provide administrative control of device actions whilst roaming. The Realtime protection of roaming costs can be achieved by allowing administrators several options to disable data connections based on the roaming state of the device, such as…

  • Disable all data connections – I know a pretty drastic measure, that could make your Mobile Apps worthless (see below). This could be used also to cap costs, if a user goes too high.
  • Display a message on device – When entering or exiting roaming, as a reminder to the user to minimise usage (see screenshot).
  • Disable other features or Apps – Such as email attachments, video (YouTube) or downloads, as it is so easy to click on that email attachment or request that file.

Afaria Message

In point #1 above, I mentioned Mobile Apps and that is a subject close to my heart. I would strongly advise your development teams to build your Mobile Apps based on a ‘Occasionally Connected – Always Available‘ model. What I mean by that is that the Mobile Application holds enough data securely within it encrypted local database or datastore, so that normal and unhampered usage of the Mobile Application can continue and then, only when needed, data is exchanged to your corporate systems and mobile device, bi-directionally and securely! Efficiently, such as just the changes that are needed to be communicated and in a compressed manner.

Another way to reduce any exposure to high data charges is to promote the use of non-cellular connection, but remember what I said in a previous article… Two of the greatest threats for business travellers come from the use of unsecured wireless networks in public places, and through Bluetooth connections. Either way, cellular or wifi, user education with respect to understanding the Costs in the first and Security aspects in the latter, of Data Connection and the consumption of that data within their OS supplied or in-house developed Mobile Applications is needed as part of Mobility Governance or Mobile Usage Policy.

Lastly, with the introduction of the new iPad we have seen mainstream and mass-market LTE 4G support in a device and that will drive even more devices to become 4G enabled. In turn this will drive higher expectations on throughput and speed, at home or abroad, Consumer or Corporate and there will be Mobile Apps that will take advantage of this increase.

My adviceData Connectivity and Consumption is the Life Blood of Mobility and your Mobile Information Workers, so through education and control make sure you don’t get a nasty shock!

Please follow me on Twitter @ithain

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