Beware of Consumer-Grade Mobile Products

Carl Weinschenk

One paragraph in particular caught our attention in Om Malik's story about Google's push to mobilize Gmail: A spokeswoman said that mobile Gmail "isn't intended to be a replacement for the push e-mail application on BlackBerry devices."


We agree, though probably in a somewhat different sense than the quote was intended. We're not experts in Gmail or equivalent services from other vendors, such as Yahoo and Microsoft. But we counsel IT managers to closely study such services if their companies want to save money by using them instead of enterprise-grade products such as those from BlackBerry and Good Technology for confidential and sensitive communications.


And make no mistake about it: The temptation will be there.


It's unlikely that Gmail is as secure as platforms aimed squarely at enterprises. The key is the target audience. To quote the Gmail site, the service is "frickin' fast." Such language. That quote alone should be enough to dissuade corporate planners from using Gmail as an enterprise platform beyond, perhaps, the most innocuous traffic. A service so obviously aimed at consumers -- and young consumers, at that -- likely isn't as secure as a service aimed at corporate users.


A byproduct of the evolution of converged platforms is that there are more choices on how to perform the same task. For instance, sensible businesses insist on highly secure enterprise-grade Wi-Fi platforms. However, it's easy for the folks down in accounting or human resources to stop at Best Buy during lunch and buy insecure residential devices and compromise security -- usually without even knowing it. It's insidious, since it's extremely difficult for IT to keep a handle on such ad hoc implementations.


For the end user, the consumer and corporate Wi-Fis do about the same thing. This also is the case with mobilized Webmail. Gmail and BlackBerries both deliver e-mail to mobile devices. The fact that one is more secure than the other will be lost on most users. IT managers must insist on policies that make the consumer services off limits for sensitive materials. They must then beg and plead with employees not to use these tools on the sly.

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