Synchronization spurs mobile management

From an enterprise IT point of view, the mobile revolution largely started and ended with issuance of notebook computers and cell phones to an increasingly distributed work force. As mobile computing progresses, more and more employees have taken the initiative to incorporate non-IT-supported handhelds, such as Palm Inc., Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry, and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows CE-based devices, into their equipment chests for accessing contact information, calendar and e-mail.

Whereas these devices were once parceled through the corporation’s back door, that flow has now picked up greatly, confronting IT departments with the need to adopt a system-wide strategy for synchronizing mobile devices with critical company data.

As handheld devices grow in popularity, synchronization is emerging as a key element in enterprise mobile management strategies, said analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, in San Jose, Calif.

“Only recently have corporate accounts had to start looking at managing the mobile environment as a compete solution. That is the point where you have to look at enterprise-level synchronization in which you are tying the devices to the applications as well as the fundamental programs like [e-mail] and PIM [personal information management],” Bajarin said.

Synchronization technology is not new, but the explosion of mobile devices has brought attention to infrastructure systems and software vendors who are creating products that allow enterprises to synchronize corporate data and applications with mobile devices and remote business locations.

Atlanta-based Synchrologic recently introduced an updated version of its iMobile Suite infrastructure platform that provides synchronization of data, e-mail, and files; systems management; and software distribution across a variety of device types. Enhancements include new file and software distribution features to ease the delivery of file information and software updates to mobile devices. Another addition is a data synchronization feature for enterprise application that replicates subsets of core enterprise application data onto selected mobile devices.

The company earlier this year also rolled out a subscription-based and hosted service, dubbed ReadySyncGo, for synchronizing PIM data to handheld devices, laptops, and mobile phones.

According to Bill Jones, director of product management at Synchrologic, more enterprises are jumping on the synchronization bandwagon.

“The whole problem enterprises are facing is not just a PIM synchronization problem. For corporations, it runs deeper into ‘How do I manage these intermittently connected devices when I can’t touch the devices? How do I keep support costs low and extend synchronization to enterprise [applications],’ ” Jones said.

Domino’s Pizza is testing Synchrologic’s iMobile platform to help link data from its many distributed restaurants with the company’s main data warehouse, said Tim Monteith, CIO of Domino’s, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“It is a huge time-saver and a great improvement in quality. We used to have to write custom code and do a lot of data manipulation to share information. The iMobile suite helps us manage information going both directions,” Monteith said.

San Jose, Calif.-based synchronization infrastructure vendor Pumatech has rolled out Version 2.0 of its Intellisync Anywhere server-based software that provides remote and LAN-based synchronization of e-mail and PIM data to mobile devices. It adds support for Lotus Notes R5 and the Pocket PC platform, as well as the capability of syncing data remotely from any WAP-enabled phone.

“Enterprise employees have a vast array of devices,” said Richard Walker, vice-president at Pumatech. “This year, there are a lot more companies planing to roll out synchronization support to these devices. It is about educating people. If you use multiple devices, this is a way to painlessly make sure you have all the relevant information on your devices.”

Another player, Raleigh, N.C.-based Nexthaus, recently introduced SyncSuite, its PC-to-mobile-device synchronization software. Establishing the PC or laptop as the centre of a corporate user’s computing environment, SyncSuite allows secure data transfer between a PC and a variety of wireless devices.

In an effort to control escalating costs and stress levels, Creative Strategies analyst Bajarin emphasizes the need for enterprises to establish a solid, consistent, company-wide strategy for synchronizing data. “Syncing PIM [data] is important, but at the enterprise level, PIM is only the tip of the iceberg. What [enterprises] care about is syncing data and applications,” Bajarin said. “Unless you have an enterprise synchronization layer that links it all together, everything is done in an individual task. It is a nightmare to manage.”