“Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) has created a cluster-jam for the business world, and virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI) is the latest technology to confront this challenge. The struggle is more cultural than technological – against VMI, commentators have spun a web of myths. Israel Lifshitz, founder and CEO of Nubo, has taken on the mission to set the record straight.
According to Lifshitz, we need to reexamine VMI because conventional “enterprise mobility” has failed. Mobile device management (MDM), enterprise mobility management (EMM) and mobile application management (MAM) have all sputtered. IT professionals complain of poor user experiences, low adoption, high costs and insufficient security. It often feels like vendors are trying to band-aid device-based BYOD with a new acronym per year. That won’t work.
Knowing that enterprise mobility users are overwhelmingly dissatisfied, Lifshitz examines the myths that might deter organizations from trying VMI.
Debunking VMI Myths
Click through for a different perspective on 10 myths that have developed around virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI), as identified by Israel Lifshitz, founder and CEO of Nubo.
Myth #1: Cellular coverage is not good enough for VMI.
With VMI, all applications live in a private data center or the cloud. Employees access these apps via a remote client app that runs on multiple mobile operating systems. Thus, you need a cellular connection or Wi-Fi to use VMI. Detractors claim that cellular coverage isn’t widespread enough to make VMI practical.
That might have been true 10 years ago. Today, high-speed cellular coverage is ubiquitous in developed countries. Go to OpenSignal and look at the availability of 3G and 4G coverage in your area. Are there dead zones? Of course! But if you have employees working in the Wyoming wilderness or boonies of Belarus, Lifshitz wagers, that BYOD is the least of their concerns.
Myth #2: People need the ability to work offline.
Even if your employees have applications installed locally on their devices, most apps still require an Internet connection to function properly. Facebook, the world’s most popular app, will do nothing at all without connectivity. YouTube and Google Search are useless without bars.
No one complains about those apps. And no, mobile devices don’t have the capacity to store a CRM or ERP database locally. The storage requirements are immense and the security concerns are even bigger. Offline access isn’t an advantage any more than offline access is a disadvantage.
Poor Signal Performance
Myth #3: Without 4G LTE, VMI user experiences will be awful.
Some IT commentators assume that VMI remote clients must gorge on data the way a Hummer guzzles gasoline. This is false. VMI can work on 3G and 4G networks. Indeed, it can function without latency on networks with 250 KB per second download speeds. Even on crowded networks or in locations with a weak signal, VMI clients can maintain good performance.
‘Native’ User Experience
Myth #4: VMI doesn’t provide a “native” user experience.
VMI skeptics worry that the user experiences won’t feel “native,” meaning virtual apps won’t operate as fast or responsively as local ones. In the past, this was an issue. Today, communication protocols are good enough to make finger scrolling, swipes and taps feel native. Test it for yourself.
Myth #5: VMI data centers and infrastructure costs are too expensive.
IT leaders often assume that VMI solutions will cost more than MDM, EMM and MAM. If you look strictly at installation costs, yes, VMI is pricier upfront. However, EMM solutions run up a giant tab over time.
With device-based BYOD solutions, IT must deal with lost and stolen devices, OS and app upgrades, patches, maintenance and end-user support, not to mention app development and deployment. When you factor in the required staff and labor, conventional mobility solutions become extravagantly expensive.
With VMI, those headaches are non-issues. You don’t need to manage a network of devices, nor must you continuously vet, approve and containerize apps.
High Data Plan Costs
Myth #6: The network costs of VMI will be more expensive than local solutions.
If users rely on VMI, won’t your company have to pay a ton for data plans? No. In fact, local apps consume far more data than remote apps, which only consume data when employees use them. In testing, Lifshitz’ team at Nubo compared a scenario where 30 emails were downloaded, three emails were sent and another three were read. Nubo used about 50 percent of the data used by the local email app.
Think about it: a local email app downloads messages and data 24/7. When someone sends a companywide email with a 40-megabyte attachment (e.g., a longwinded PowerPoint presentation), that will be downloaded to thousands of devices in the organization.
Myth #7: VMI is too new and untested.
Though it’s new compared to MDM and EMM, VMI is far from unproven. Industries with extreme security concerns have adopted VMI. You’ll see it used in defense and public safety, government, health care, banking and finance.
These sectors struggled to ensure compliance and data privacy with conventional enterprise mobility solutions. EMM and MDM notoriously motivate “shadow IT” by restricting which applications employees may use. VMI, on the other hand, takes security out of the end user’s control and puts it in IT’s hands.
Limited Use Cases
Myth #8: VMI only works for certain, specific use cases, not common use cases.
Commentators have pegged VMI as a “niche” technology, and they couldn’t be more wrong. VMI is designed to replace any enterprise mobility solution.
The standard BYOD use case involves four tools: email, calendar, contacts and documents. That use case is less expensive, more secure and equally user-friendly on VMI.
There are also common use cases that work with VMI but not with MDM. For instance, if you contract out to external developers and researchers, you can’t install MDM on their devices. They can’t give you administrative rights to their device. VMI, on the other hand, would enable them to access specific apps and data without giving up administrative permissions.
Lack of Security
Myth #9: VMI isn’t more secure than the alternatives.
Skeptics argue that running apps virtually doesn’t elevate security. A hacker could breach the passcode on the remote client app and wreak havoc. That risk is easier to address than the risk of enterprise data stored locally on thousands of personal devices.
By leaving no data on employee devices, VMI removes the weakest link in enterprise security. Whereas IT can fortify data infrastructure against attacks, it cannot do likewise on employee devices. Who would you trust to handle company cybersecurity – your IT department or thousands of employees with various levels of tech savviness?
Lack iOS Support
Myth #10: VMI is not supported on Apple.
This is the most misleading myth. Yes, VMI usually relies on Android applications hosted in a data center. Consequently, people assume that these apps must not operate properly when accessed by iOS devices. That’s false.
VMI doesn’t give you an “Android user experience” or “Apple user experience.” Remote client apps provide an equally strong user experience on Android or iOS. Remember, VMI apps run in the data center. Therefore, UX depends on that data infrastructure and the app design, not the OS or device from which those apps are accessed.