In a recent analysis in MSPMentor of a Perimeter ESecurity survey, Dan Berthiaume offers the idea that the lack of mobile adoption of SMBs is due to security concerns of those SMBs. In the opening paragraph of his article, Small Business Thwarted by Mobile Security Concerns, he notes that “….the first sign of SMB concerns about the security of mobile and remote devices is the fact that about 48 percent of all SMBs have less than 10 percent of their employees using laptops…”, which paints a pretty bleak picture of the adoption of mobile computing in SMBs. The original blog post at Perimeter ESecurity discussing the survey results does give us a bit of hope, though. It states “Our research reveals that laptop adoption is very prevalent among small businesses today, with a quarter of these respondents reporting 80 percent or more of their workforce regularly use laptops.”


The raw numbers

The actual truth lies somewhat in between, and the key to understanding the ‘in-between’ lies in looking at the more detailed numbers:

  • 25% of organizations with less than 50 employees report that more than 80% of their employees use laptops
  • 6% of organizations with 50-500 employees report that 80% of their employees use laptops

 

MACs and Public Wi-Fi

However, mostly the original Perimeter ESecurity survey results focused on conclusions regarding the issue of a growing presence of Macs and their use in locations with Public Wi-Fi access, not necessarily mobile computing as a whole. (The full study is published in a white paper titled Rising Mac and Public WiFi Use Poses New Risks to Businesses.) The concerns described in the white paper, relate to the expectation of increases in acquisition of Macs in the workplace (perhaps a manifestation of the current debacles with Windows 8?). Specifically, almost a third or all organizations (31%) surveyed plan to increase the number of Mac laptops, but a number of IT Managers surveyed are unsure whether their existing security policies for Windows PCs will meet the needs for the Mac, in consideration of the fact that threats are increasing in the Mac landscape. A majority of respondents (61%) are also concerned about the security of public networks.


An alternate theory

Ironically, it is, in fact, small business that has the higher rate of adoption of mobile computing than their big brothers. It’s possible that these numbers merely reflect the age of those two groups, and nothing more significant. Smaller businesses are likely to be newer to the arena, so may have invested in laptops right out of the gate, particularly where the office infrastructure is purely wireless, whereas larger organizations likely have been around for a while, and are probably a function of the standard practice of investing in desktop systems during most of the first decade of this century.

 

It’s important, in any case, to not confuse correlation with causation.  While it might be true that security concerns drive some organizational decisions to shy away from mobile computing, the survey results don’t necessarily indicate that.  Consider some alternative reasons for the technology decisions made by SMBs. It is just as likely that those SMBs who are not investing in mobile computing are not doing so because

  • many SMBs can’t afford, and don’t need, notebooks, thus do not purchase the more expensive computing option, and
  • the benefits of BYOD are much more significant in SMBs because of capital concerns, so there’s no need to invest in smartphones and tablets either.

 

Either way, whether mobile computing is more or less of the SMB landscape, it’s all old news for Windows mobile users, as the Windows landscape has been struggling with the inherent lack of security in public WiFi space for years now – pretty much since Starbucks introduced WiFi over ten years ago. It’s still a jungle out there, and it’s not going to get any easier for Mac users; it has certainly not gotten any easier for Windows users.