How to Select (and Secure) Cross-Platform Mobile Apps

Posted on September 16, 2014

Writing in CITE, the magazine dedicated to the consumerization of IT, technology journalist Ryan Faas summed up the frustration of many IT executives by saying, "With the rise of different mobile platforms and content ecosystems, the technology world is becoming increasingly fragmented."

It's true of course. How many operating systems connect to your corporate network every day" Windows (in pre- and post-Windows 8 versions), OS X, Linux, Chrome OS, all the various versions of Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Amazon's Kindle and Fire products, and BlackBerry are among the possibilities that more and more companies have to accommodate " and secure.

Prat Agarwal, director of business development at secure mobile printing leader Breezy, says that the multitude of operating systems is one reason that companies are struggling to develop or select mobile apps for their users. "In a BYOD environment, or even an environment where users have significant input into the devices the company purchases for their use, you're going to wind up with at least two mobile operating systems " Android and iOS. Of course, with Android, it's never just one operating system, though.

"So the first thing a company has to consider when selecting an app is cross-platform capability," Agarwal says.

Cross-Platform Done Right

iOS and Android together control about 80% of the mobile device market, and both are continuing to grow their installed bases. Any app that wants to compete in the enterprise space has to offer a similar user experience for both iOS and Android devices, Agarwal says.

Why? Because according to a study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, roughly 35% of iPad owners and 28% of Mac owners have an Android smartphone, and the numbers " at least before last week's iPhone 6 launch " were increasing.

Security Matters

When you're selecting mobile apps for the enterprise, Agarwal says that it's critical that your choices should support your current and possible future enterprise mobility management (EMM) strategy and solution. Agarwal, who is proud to point out that Breezy's secure mobile printing app is fully integrated with the top five EMM solutions as well as several more specialized EMM choices, says that if the app can't be properly secured and managed, it's a consumer app that has little place in the enterprise.

"We often see a situation where a customer has short-listed their two best choices for an EMM, or even selected one. But when they conduct an audit of the apps and devices employees are already using, there's a good chance that another of the top EMM solutions has features that make it more suitable for the company's requirements," he explains.

The Reality Check

Another thing that often comes up during app selection is the need for document collaboration and editing tools that work with the company's preferred types of documents. Whether it's the ability to edit documents stored in the Cloud, or share documents in a specific format, Agarwal says he can't overestimate the number of times that Breezy customers have mentioned a struggle to find apps that work with the hardware and software most commonly used in the workplace.

"Don't forget that users need to be able to print to any printer on your network, without sharing the same connection as your primary network. And they will also want to be able to print when they're on the road ? working from home, traveling, or at a customer location or remote site," Agarwal adds.

Test Apps & Get Employee Feedback

Add sufficient time into the development, purchase, or deployment cycle to test apps and get employee feedback. A lot of apps make it possible to switch from an iPhone to Android, or from Windows to one of the other apps, but there is often a trade-off in making the switch.

"Sometimes it's a learning curve, but more often it's a shift in the user experience or a feature set that isn't available. And, unfortunately, sometimes the trade-off is in security, which is why testing and employee feedback are so critical," Agarwal says.

IT doesn't have to be so flexible that security and productivity are sacrificed in the name of multi-platform or cross-platform choice, the Breezy exec adds. "Decide how flexible you want or need to be in your choices, and what level of security is required for your mobile users," he says. "That will tell you a lot about the policies and procedures you need to implement in selecting and securing mobile apps for your company."

For more information about Breezy's cross-platform secure mobile printing applications, and how to protect your data with on-device encryption, watch this video from Breezy, or download The Definitive Guide to Mobile Printing, a free Breezy ebook.

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