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March Madness Brings April “Bill Shock”

March 16, 2012 No Comments

By Troy Fulton, Director, Product Marketing, Tangoe, Inc.

marchmadness2 March Madness Brings April Bill ShockMarch Madness is here and even if you are not a fan, your employees likely are. The NCAA basketball tournament is one of the biggest sporting events of the year and fans around the country tune into the games by any means possible, and given the game schedule, this often means they’re streaming it on a company device. As proof, a study from Modis revealed that 42 percent of IT professionals said their networks are typically impacted by the basketball tournament and 37 percent of IT professionals said their networks are slowed down by the live video streaming of the games.

So, how does this affect the enterprise beyond decreasing available network bandwidth to conduct business? In the past couple years, smart phones and mobile tablets, like the new iPad, which is available starting today, have become an important tool in users’ everyday lives allowing employees to stream just about anything from anywhere and employers can end up paying the price. For example, if an employee happens to be roaming while watching “NCAA March Madness On Demand” or “Yahoo! Tourney” on their corporate device, the carrier can charge high data usage fees above their individual and pooling plans, leading to Bill Shock.”  The only way many companies discover the cost is via the bill 45 – 60 days later. Even if the carrier sends a notification alerting the user about exceeding plan usage, the user can continue. Mobile device and cost management need to be tightly coupled. So, to prevent “Bill Shock” during the Madness, here are some key best practices worth considering:

Real-Time Mobile Expense Management

Device usage should be tracked in real-time.  When devices are approaching usage thresholds against carrier plan or when roaming, both you and your employee need to know. Roaming charges do not always appear right away and companies may be unaware of the fees they are about to be charged until long after the incident occurs.  With carriers changing the rules and eliminating unlimited data plans, end users no longer can stream data without fear of being charged. An employee may not know they are costing their company thousands of dollars as they watch a game while waiting to catch a flight back to the U.S. With the right tools you can enforce policy compliance.

Mobile Policy Management

Policy management is often the critical path to scale your device and control expectations across hundreds or hundreds of thousands of devices. The lack of a robust mobile policy can mean trouble  , from financial—“cost creep” due to limited control of device types, rate plans, and ownership—to risks involving governance, confidentiality provisions, etc. Aside from the standard benefits of mobile policy management (greater control of spend, visibility into inventory, usage control, etc.), organizations with strong policy management gain greater data protection and security. You also want to have automated responses generated in real-time by a “rules engine” for when the device is out of compliance. For instance, the OS device is out of date or an application requires a patch. Another example is detecting the device is either jailbroken or rooted.  Automated multi-step responses can include customized notifications and alerts (respective to the compliance criteria), feature / function changes such as disabling data communication when roaming or contact from the help desk should an alert be received.

Mobile Application Management

If you have not done so already, establish an application portal with the apps that you have approved. With new devices and applications arriving   in unprecedented numbers, it’s more critical than ever to control the apps available to your employees. If an employee has the freedom to download any streaming application, that could accumulate unnecessary fees. Management tips include:

  • Device inventory visibility for detection of either applications that are no longer in compliance, or a compliance violation. IT administrators need to have the ability to remove applications either automatically or inform the end user via a customized, and localized, alert that the application must be removed.  If the device is not in compliance by a specified time, the device can be blocked from accessing Exchange.
  • Application deployment is over SSL and verify a successful installation.
  • Ensure application management is tracking updates, patches, fixes, etc.  For IL devices, you want to make sure you have visibility into those devices, what apps are installed, is your data protected, etc.

Educate Your Employees

Establishing mobile policies is critical, but what good are they if you’re employees aren’t getting the message? On a regular basis IT should communicate key provisions in the company’s corporate policy for CL and IL mobile devices.

Compounding the issue, employees are not only watching games on-the-go, they also catch games in the office using the company’s network. In many cases, there is not enough bandwidth for the entire staff to watch the games and can hamper network performance. Companies have and should enforce the ability to block sites that stream the tournament in order to control bandwidth usage.

Remember, device and cost management go hand in hand. Mobile device management solutions are critical for monitoring devices with security in mind, but they also enable IT to track usage among an increasingly growing group of mobile workers. It’s important for IT to be privy to activity in real-time so they can take appropriate action should users exceed data usage. In addition, this information is critical for them to constantly update and adjust mobile policies.

As a general rule, employees should only be using their devices for tasks that relate to business. For most companies, this does not mean watching NCAA basketball. However, companies could encourage employees to tune in via the company TV with a DVR!

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