According to Forrester Research, companies should build an app store into a corporate mobility strategy because they make it easy to distribute the tools that employees need and they can also help with data security and control what apps are used.
With 53% of employees carrying a personal smartphone or tablet for work to access a range of mobile applications, managing the security of devices and applications is vital, Forrester says. Corporate app stores are primarily used to distribute corporate-approved mobile applications to employees, partners or customers. However, Forrester Analyst Christian Kane wrote in TechTarget that during the next few years, these app stores will include expanded functionality such as content sharing, granular discovery, provisioning and reporting and monitoring services to support smartphones, tablets and even PCs.
Consumer app stores such as the Apple App Store and Google Play enable mobile device suppliers to distribute applications to individuals who use their mobile platforms. For many workers, these consumer-oriented app stores are the primary source for smartphone and tablet applications. Jared Hansen, CEO of secure mobile printing leader Breezy, says that a number of enterprise solutions vendors such as AT&T, Cisco, Salesforce, and SAP also use the app stores to distribute mobile apps.
"We offer some of our products through the public app stores, too," Hansen says. "But the majority of our customers prefer to deploy Breezy and other secure apps from within a corporate app store, or by pushing the app to devices when they connect to the corporate network."
Today, Forrester's Kane says that 35% of firms allow employees to purchase mobile applications from consumer app stores. There are problems, however. For one thing, app stores are platform-specific which creates problems for IT departments that must support a number of mobile platforms. More importantly, however, allowing employees to select apps from the app store makes it nearly impossible for IT to apply the kinds of security and risk management solutions needed to protect sensitive company data.
That's one of the primary reasons that IT professionals are looking to corporate app stores, which Kane and Forrester define as, "Technology solutions that enable companies to selectively distribute approved mobile applications and services to internal and external users, including employees, partners, suppliers and customers."
An internal corporate app store offers employees a self-service way to discover and use mobile apps approved by the business for their work activities. They can also provision apps to specific segments of the workforce.
And, of course, Hansen says that a corporate app store can control the configuration, security settings, and mobile app authentication needed to secure company data. You can set policies for a geographic region, a role or job type within the company, or even an individual user with specific needs," he points out. "Last, but hardly least, you can track usage so that IT can stay ahead of the curve when it comes to changing needs.
In a recent TechTarget podcast, U.K. data security consultant Michael Cobb, founder of CobWeb, says that enterprise-controlled app stores can be an effective weapon against a plethora of malicious mobile applications. A common myth is that enterprise app stores are hard to set up, and require specialized knowledge, but Cobb says that it's easier than you think.
"The benefits are huge," Cobb explains. "Running an enterprise app store gives IT security pros control over which apps employees can install on their mobile devices. Even better, there are plenty of ways to create such a store, and it's a myth that enterprise IT departments must start from scratch: It is often cheaper and easier, in fact, to use enterprise app stores already on the market, which can be customized to enterprise specs. The setup might require some cost and manpower, but that expenditure is well worth the control IT acquires over what sort of applications live on the mobile devices coming through the corporate door."
Click here to listen to Cobb's podcast, which includes information on the security of the Apple App Store, how to set up an in-house app store, and how to get good feedback from employees on app performance.
In addition to the pervasive myth that mobile app stores are hard to create and manage, there are five additional mobile app myths that cause grief for business. This list of five mobile app myths that hold IT back comes from Business News Daily.
Myth: Business apps take at least six months to develop and deploy. Truth: Some organizations require anywhere from 10 to 100 apps to serve different business units. If the common belief that an app takes half a year to build and launch is true, the amount of time required to build those apps can be prohibitive to a company's mobile progress. But the right mobile platform can cut this "standard" app development time in half.
Myth: Apps won't be able to access data stored in legacy systems. Truth: Enterprise organizations that have made large investments in systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP) software are hesitant to develop mobile apps that can't seamlessly plug into these existing technologies. Finding an enterprise-grade MBaaS (mobile backend as a service) solution with an API infrastructure solves these issues and enables mobiles devices to easily access legacy systems.
Myth: Mobile app developers must keep up with numerous coding languages and frameworks. Truth: According to Forrester, app developers often employ as many as 10 different coding languages for enterprise mobile app projects. To simplify development, app platforms with a "bring your own toolkit" approach allow IT departments to use the coding languages they're most comfortable with.
Myth: Business apps are always data heavy, which places high loads on handsets and backend systems. Truth: Geeknado reported that 4G smartphones will use 5,114 MB per month in cellular data by 2017, and tablet usage is set to increase to 5,387 MB per month by the same year, pushing cellular and tablet data usage up by 292 percent and 556 percent, respectively, over five years. The best mobile platforms must take large amounts of data from the backend and transmit a small, filtered set of data to the handset to reduce overall data transmission demands.
Myth: One designated mobile development head can handle company-wide app development. Truth: This myth assumes that one central figure will successfully oversee the development and deployment of an app. In reality, the average development project requires at least 20 personnel, including business heads, developers, project managers, IT representatives and employee stakeholders. By collaborating and using the same technology standards and requirements, a multi-person mobile team can guide projects across multiple business units without creating new silos.
Customers report that Breezy installations are among the easiest they’ve ever seen for an enterprise product.