8 ways to tame mobile devices in the workplace

Experts offer tips for controlling costs and securing your agency's mobile devices

Agencies are swimming against the current in their efforts to corral mobile devices. But there is hope for managing all these devices.

Several industry experts offered tips for agency executives to follow to control costs and improve security as more employees carry smart phones and other devices intended to improve on-the-job efficiency.

Mobile Manager’s Checklist: Controlling Costs

1. Centralize and streamline management.

Centralization makes it easier to consolidate wireless plans for volume discounts and ensure that security policies are applied uniformly at all offices, which helps reduce ongoing administrative costs. Software from MobileIron, Sybase, Trust Digital and others enforces management and security policies from a central console for a mix of handheld devices, such as BlackBerrys, iPhones, and handhelds that run Google Android or Windows Mobile.

2. Consider outsourcing.

Telecommunications expense management vendors can analyze agency usage patterns, identify cost-cutting opportunities and negotiate with carriers for better deals. Organizations should evaluate service providers for their ability to slice and dice data according to individual agency needs, said Michele Pelino, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. Three contractors that offer such services are listed under the General Services Administration's Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative. Effective management of expenses can save agencies an estimated 26 percent on their wireless services, according to GSA.

3. Pick a pooling plan.

With a single flat-rate pool of minutes, mobile managers can balance the costs of infrequent phone users with power users who frequently exceed their monthly minutes, said Bernard McMonagle, associate director of federal government data solutions at Verizon Wireless. But do your homework to determine the appropriate pool amounts because overage charges can be billed at five times the standard rate.

4. Eliminate ghost phones.

Ten percent or more of active wireless lines at large agencies are allocated to users who have moved on. "By eliminating those lines right off the bat, you see 10 percent in savings," said Jin Kang, president of iSYS, a provider of telecom expense management services.

Mobile Manager's Checklist: Security

1. Don't underestimate mobile threats.

New applications that take advantage of faster cellular networks will increase the amount of sensitive data stored on smart phones and wireless-enabled laptop PCs, making them attractive targets for hackers. Protect laptops by using virtual private network software that launches when the device connects to agency servers, said David Barton, director of wireless security at AT&T Mobility. In addition, FIPS 140-2 encryption is de rigueur for all federal mobile devices.

2. Keep devices current.

Security policies must include mechanisms for keeping patches, firewalls, and encryption and antivirus software up-to-date. As noted in the checklist for controlling costs, MobileIron, Sybase, Trust Digital and other vendors offer software that lets organizations use a central console to enforce management and security policies on mobile devices.

"Managers can use the system to push out authorized applications and periodically check each device to see if there's anything out of compliance," said Bob Laurence, Sybase's public-sector vice president and general manager.

3. Vet the extras.

Officials should carefully consider whether to disable ancillary features on mobile devices, such as built-in cameras and wireless Bluetooth connectivity. The other option is to not buy products with those features if the agency's policy forbids them.

4. Use two-factor authentication when necessary.

For additional security, augment system passwords with device add-ons, such as government smart-card readers or biometric fingerprint scanners. "This provides added security on the device itself in addition to what's on [agency] servers," said Bernard McMonagle, associate director of federal government data solutions at Verizon Wireless.

About the Author

Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group