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InfrastructureWireless data options are about to explode. Stop thinking "cell phone" and start thinking "mobile terminal."
There's a wireless data tsunami coming to the enterprise. Enticed by low initial costs and cool features, users are buying smarter and smarter phones and more talkative PDAs that allow them access to remote applications and more flexible ways to communicate.
But the dirty little secret of such devices isn't just the usual suspect of support headaches. It's the fact that most IT shops aren't prepared to provide the business infrastructurethe management policies and cost controlsthese devices demand. To meet that demand, IT must get busy now, before the wireless wave engulfs the enterprise. That means putting in place processes to allocate use and manage billing, then focusing on ways to simplify support costs.
It's easy to dismiss cell phones and PDAs today as low-tech gizmos that are beneath IT's dignity to manage. Get over it. As phones and handhelds continue their relentless march toward each other, the blurring lines of distinction mean that many mobile devices are already providing some flavor of wireless data and voice in the same box. That means more and more data will be moving from the Ethernet into the ether. Researcher IDC says sales of so-called smart phones alone will reach 30 million next year, and wireless handhelds could be more than half of the 40.6 million handhelds expected to ship in 2006, says Kenil Vora, an analyst at ABI Research.
When an otherwise unassuming cell phone or PDAa growing number of which now come with a full keyboardcan do voice, instant messaging, e-mail and calendaring, and are powerful enough to pick up data from sales-force automation and other enterprise applications, the labels don't much matter anymore. In fact, Gartner Inc. simply calls them "mobile terminals," a mentality IT might want to consider adopting. Include in the mix laptops with Wi-Fi and wireless cards that operate over cellular networks, and you have the same recipe for grassroots user adoption that kick-started PC and LAN adoption, creating big pools of rogue IT that eventually had to be roped into the enterprise architecture. "It gets really scary for a lot of companies," says Keith Waryas, lead analyst for wireless business network services at IDC.