The 50 or so lawyers in the San Diego office of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP love their BlackBerrys. "When they're traveling, they say [the devices] are their lifeline," said Steve Gonzalez, IT manager of the firm.
Gonzalez said managing the gadgets, which provide phone, e-mail and Web browsing capabilities, is easy. He just takes good care of the server in his department. "There's not much to manage, really," he said.
But according to a recent analysis of the mobile device management (MDM) market, things are going to get more complex, and CIOs of small to medium-sized businesses are going to need help.
CIOs at SMBs who need to control wireless devices -- to disable them if they're stolen or remotely enforce data encryption synchronization -- will lead the way in turning MDM software into a $5 billion market by 2010, according to a new study by Strategy Analytics Inc. Today the market accounts for around $500 million.
Given the small IT staffs at SMBs, much of that market will be composed of managed services, analysts said, as CIOs are asked to support more mobile devices.
"IT managers have to make critical policy decisions to protect the integrity of enterprise IT services," said study author Cliff Raskind, director of global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics, in a statement. "Unlike PCs, this is exacerbated by unclear lines of device ownership and the mobility inherent in wireless devices."
Raskind said the SMB market is underserved
And those devices increasingly carry data that could get a company in trouble if it were compromised, which could be more incentive for firms to turn to a provider to manage them.
"I think it's going to be a big market," said Michael Disabato, service director with IT research firm Burton Group. He believes many end users are still enamored of the convenience and don't understand the potential liabilities they're carrying around with them.
"You're seeing all kinds of interesting information going on smart phones and PDAs -- you've got lawyers putting legal briefs on Palms," he said. In this era of government regulations, all companies have to be careful with what they put on those devices, he warned.
"You need to have policies and procedures in place and get human resources and the staff to buy into them."
Gonzalez said it's possible for the lawyers at his firm to receive sensitive information on their devices via e-mail attachments. But those BlackBerrys are connected to a server he can easily manage. "I can disable them from here," he said, adding that the devices are password-protected so any lost or stolen devices won't spill their secrets.
Still, managed service providers are ready to jump in to make CIOs' lives easier.
Johan Valentin, IT director for SmartTrust U.S. Inc., a Stockholm, Sweden-based solution provider for mobile operators said every new technology silo that gets added -- such as when companies start adding high-speed connections, Java and Wi-Fi to the mobile mix -- greatly increases complexity and headaches for CIOs, particularly SMB CIOs.
"The configuration of services and devices is too complex for average users," Valentin said. "Subscribers will stay away if they can't use services."
And he agreed that his market is on the brink of a boom.
"We're in a sweet spot today and really seeing a need in the market for operators to get beyond the obstacles of access and configuration," he said.