Wi-Fi is an Answer for Africa: Across Africa demands are changing, access models are changing and consumers are blurring the lines between corporate
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One account, multiple devices?

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One account, multiple devices?

One online profile, one place for storage, seamless access from any device... and the security and a reliable connection to make it all possible? If that sounds good to you, you are probably one of a growing number of people who have an embarrassing amount of digital devices on which they work, play, interact and store important business and personal information. Managing and controlling all that data, not to mention security, has become a challenge. There are a number of solutions to this problem, but because business and personal data now co-exist on devices, it has multiple dimensions.

The reality is that many people today have many personal productivity devices -- two or more phones; perhaps a business laptop; a desktop PC at work and/or at home; a private laptop for recreation; a tablet PC or Ultrabook for taking into meetings or for travelling -- and as they proliferate, productivity becomes an issue.

It's pretty inconvenient. You struggle to find the data, contacts and conversations you have scattered across these devices; access to a business network is declined because your device doesn't have the right version of antivirus; no Wi-Fi at the office (or at a client) means it's difficult to hook in with your tablet PC; you can't remember the passwords for various sites or applications and don't have the device on which you stored them... you know the frustration.

The answers to this challenge are literally streaming in. But the answer may not be just cloud-based; perhaps it's time to consolidate the devices we carry. There are some promising solutions, like the Ultrabook, that have recently poked their heads over the horizon.

Is the answer in the cloud?

Topping the 'cloud' list are the opportunistic and very useful sync and storage applications, like DropBox where you can share info instantly with someone you identify, or Apple's iCloud that allows you to aggregate and synchronise data across all your Apple devices. SkyDrive is Microsoft's SSL encrypted online storage system that also enables group editing of MS files. And then there's Google Drive, Google's storage service that lets you add photos to email, edit video and send faxes directly and make, share and edit documents. For this service, Google wants you to sign over usage rights, however.

There are a lot of advantages to be had but privacy and security is an issue. IBM, for example, recently banned its staff from using DropBox or iCloud for fear of sensitive data being 'lost' since it has little control over the applications staff load onto their devices, which can create vulnerabilities.* There's little chance of devices being banned, however.

BYOD and workplace Wi-Fi benefits

There's no denying the huge benefits of Wi-Fi in the workplace. It facilitates instant synchronisation of devices like tablet PCs and wireless notepads, Ultrabooks and other devices with the office network, diaries, calendars and other line of business or workgroup collaboration networks. Wi-Fi also has a knock on effect, automating other business functions – like time and attendance logging which occurs when say an access control system recognises a user entering a building or a meeting room.

"Bring your own device" or BYOD is a practice many corporates allow. It lets mobile workers – actually any workers today – bring their own devices to work and use them. The challenge, as IBM highlights, is then maintaining a security layer around work related data. Authentication and authorisation can be managed, but controlling what anyone puts on their devices (data and/or apps) is another kettle of fish entirely... and of course if users have numerous devices synced together, vulnerabilities may be multiplied across devices.

A single device?

Perhaps risk can be averted through use of the still illusive single 'uber device' that marries convenience, power and all the other features our lifestyles demand of the electronic devices we use for work and play. Hardware and system vendors are working hard to achieve this.

Some are building security into devices. There's the physical security, like biometrics and iris scan needed for system access, but also technology like Intel's Anti-Theft solution that allows Ultrabooks with Intel processors to be disabled from anywhere in the world if they are compromised. Intel also offers online identity protection in second generation Ultrabooks with its Intel Identity Protection Technology creating a trusted link to the user's system, accounts and favourite places.

A happy medium

Finding a happy medium may mean finding the sweet spot with regard to functionality and seamless function. At least a part of the solution seems to lie in the cloud, but awareness of the vulnerabilities of various applications, especially for business data, is important. For others, a large part of the answer will be in finding a single device that marries the best features of a business and personal device. Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all; the 'ideal' device will depend very much on the lifestyle of the individual. The Ultrabook shows promise; its evolution will certainly be worth watching.

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