The mobile toolbox of today's IT professional

With mobile devices now finding a permanent home in enterprises, IT professionals are increasingly confident that they can harness the benefits without succumbing to the potential risks.

IT professionals tend to be problem-solvers. Regardless of the scope or nature of these problems – which can affect an individual, an entire company, or anything in between – they all require rapid detection, accurate diagnosis, and timely resolution. The nature of technical systems means that managing them is in many ways a 24/7 responsibility: IT professionals must swing into action when an outage, glitch or malicious intrusion occurs, without the luxury of handling these issues solely during office hours. In many cases, their ability to solve these problems quickly and effectively directly impacts the profits and viable operation of the organisations they work for.

These professionals already have numerous technical tools to assist them in their work. However, they’re increasingly reliant on one particular tool: the everyday smartphone or tablet. Mobile devices lend themselves well to the nature of IT work, something which more and more professionals are recognising in how they go about solving problems for their and their clients’ organisations.

Ubiquity of access

By using their personal mobile devices, IT professionals can access the systems they’re responsible for regardless of time or location. This ubiquitous access brings with it several benefits. Firstly, day-to-day maintenance and management tasks – like perusing server logs or monitoring network traffic – become significantly more convenient and immediate, and can be carried out from the home or during the daily commute. This convenience not only improves the IT professional’s productivity, but lets them assess potential issues without needing access to the physical systems or a dedicated terminal.

In many cases, they can also rectify and resolve smaller technical problems direct from their mobile devices, using remote access and system consoles which were once restricted to desktop and laptop machines.

According to SolarWinds Mobile IT Administration Survey, 95 per cent of IT pros worldwide currently use their mobile devices to work after hours, showing just how quickly these devices been adopted into the professional toolset. And while mobile devices are typically associated with generating problems rather than solving them, almost two-thirds of IT professionals surveyed in SolarWinds’ survey said employee-owned mobile devices had never been responsible for a company security breach. That indicates a significant level of confidence in the ability of IT professionals to harness the benefits of mobile devices – such as greater productivity for both them and their organisations – without succumbing to potential risks.

Don’t let small problems become larger ones

Apart from making smaller tasks easier to manage, mobile devices allow IT professionals to react and respond far faster to bigger issues before they escalate. The always-on nature of the mobile device lends itself well to instant alerts and notifications when a problem is detected; since most IT professionals (like the rest of us) already carry their smartphones and tablets with them at all times, this approach can significantly reduce the time between when a problem occurs and when the IT manager becomes aware of it.

That means more time for IT personnel to evaluate and develop a response to the task at hand: in many cases, stop-gap measures (like shutting down a server under attack) can be initiated via mobile device, buying more time to deploy a comprehensive solution and reducing the chance of the problem snowballing into something uncontrollable.

Ensuring 24/7 responsiveness to technical issues is an unavoidable part of the IT profession: Solarwinds Mobile IT Administration Survey indicates that nearly 85 per cent of IT pros have to respond to or acknowledge after-hours alerts. By using their mobile devices to scan and respond to these alerts, IT professionals can fix smaller issues with greater productivity.

More critically, they can identify and react to any larger issue before it escalates into an even costlier or harder-to-manage problem, maintaining organisational uptime and productivity without any noticeable effect on their co-workers.

The IT factor

For IT professionals themselves, however, the greatest boon of the mobile device may be the freedom which it offers. The highly critical 24/7 nature of IT operation is unlikely to change any time soon, but the mobile device model offers IT pros increased opportunity to maintain their working responsibilities outside of the physical office environment.

That flexibility is already being touted as one of mobility’s key advantages, but it has even greater potential value to IT professionals whose irregular and intensive working hours can be highly disruptive to family and lifestyle. As the mobile device evolves, it looks set to play an even greater role in the IT professional’s toolbox – not only for solving technical problems, but also for ensuring a healthy balance between personal and organisational needs.

Doug Hibberd is EVP for engineering and general manager for Asia Pacific at SolarWinds.

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