Five years ago, at the end of June 2007, the world of mobile IT changed forever, although few realized it at the time. Who could have guessed that the sales of the first iPhone would ultimately lead to significant productivity gains, new lines of business and new headaches for IT? At first all that the iPhone seemed to be was an upgraded iPod music player.
But over time, as more and more people realized that their iPhones could do more than make phone calls, browse the Web and play music, the demand to make them part of the enterprise became too much for IT departments to resist. Suddenly, alongside those Motorola RAZRs and BlackBerry smartphones, a new player had emerged, and it was a new player that could do things other devices couldn t.
At first those new things were pretty limited. The iPhone was cool, people wanted to have one so they could be cool, too. But it turned out that the iPhone could do email, it could browse the Web and it could run programs. While most of those programs, simply called apps, were games or personal productivity software, there were a few that would work in a business environment.
By this time the iPhone had changed the face of enterprise computing even though the world of enterprise computing hadn't figured that out yet.
But things from that time are a big fuzzy. The iPhone was introduced in January of 2007, but not shipped until late June. There was buzz, but most people weren't sure what to make of it. Was it a music player with a phone or phone with a Web browser? Or was it really a computer since it ran Mac OS in those days?
If that s where it had ended, the iPhone might have just been a short-lived curiosity, kind of like the Newton. But then Apple made sure the iPhone would work with Microsoft Exchange. Now iPhones could start infiltrating corporate offices and IT departments had little choice but to support the iPhone.
This was the beginning of the BYOD (bring your own device) trend, although we didn t call it that back then. Suddenly many different, personally owned smartphones and mobile devices were available and people started bringing them to work, expecting to use them. Companies for the most part were going along after all, they didn t have to buy the phones.
And it wasn't just iPhones. Suddenly every-day users, those that wouldn't normally qualify for a company smartphone, were buying BlackBerry devices. Then Android phones started showing up and everyone wanted to be on the company network. Chaos reigned, but chaos isn t always a bad thing.
What the chaos taught us was that business had to start taking mobile security seriously. Previously, many businesses had open WiFi access points. There were no real standards as to what could live on a phone and what couldn t.
People were storing sensitive, work-related material on their iPods and nobody cared, because there were relatively few of them. But when the sales of the iPhone exploded, so did the security woes of the enterprise. Security managers finally figured out that company employees were walking around with tiny computers in their pockets--computers that contained sensitive corporate data that could walk out the door and disappear.
And with many companies, that's where we are today. The IT department is still trying to grapple with the dozens of different smart devices that show up at work on any given day. They re coping with figuring out what devices can be made secure, what can't and what they don t know. But with the exception of a few organizations, such as the government and financial services, BYOD has arrived.
This article was originally published on 06-25-2012