Top Ten Things to Consider About Mobile in the Legal Workforce
Please note this article is applicable to the investigations workforce as well as the legal workforce.
With over 5 billion mobile phones currently in use around the world, it is not a question of “if you should” be using mobile but rather “how you should” be using mobile. According to a May 2011 survey taken by Nielsen, nearly 40 percent of mobile users in the United States have a smartphone and of those who recently purchased a phone in the last 3 months, 55% reported purchasing a smartphone. Tablet computers such as the iPad are also gaining in popularity; in fact, the iPad now accounts for 1% of TOTAL worldwide Internet web traffic and 2.1% of the web traffic in the United States.
So if you’re ready to take the plunge in a big way, how do you decide where to begin? There are many mobile operating systems to choose from including iOS from Apple, Android from Google, Java from RIM (Blackberry), and Windows Phone 7 from Microsoft. This article looks at the top ten key issues to consider before you begin.
1. Connection Speeds
Most of the United States now offers third generation (3G) mobile speeds which enable the user to upload content at around 300-500 kilobits per second and download content at speeds around 500 kilobits per second to around 1.5 megabits per second. This has become very important given the amount of video being consumed by users. Some of the newest devices use the new fourth generation (4G) mobile connectivity capability provided by Verizon. A 4G phone (when in a coverage area for 4G services) delivers web pages and content very quickly; in fact, it is not uncommon to see download speeds greater than 8 megabits per second and upload speeds greater than 2 or 3 megabits per second.
Without question, the devices, which attract the most attention today, come from Apple: the iPhone and the iPad/iPad2. Apple has the strongest application portfolio with over 300,000 apps in total available for the iPhone and over 60,000 for the iPad. Apple has a very rigorous testing policy for applications and has had very little problems with applications behaving in ways they should not. The device is very easy to set up for Microsoft Exchange corporate email access and also has native virtual private network (VPN) support built in. This year Apple began providing iPhone and iPad product on the Verizon network in addition to AT&T. Apple devices also support WiFi connectivity as well as third generation (3G) network speeds.
From a market share aspect, more smartphones are sold in the USA using the Google Android operating system than any other. You can choose from manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung, and Motorola. Applications for Android devices come from the Android Marketplace. The one concern about Android applications is that there has been a significant rise in malware – that is, applications that gain access to your information that shouldn’t. You should be aware of this and use some form of security protection like Lookout or other similar products. The best tablet devices using Android come from Samsung.
Blackberry from Research In Motion (RIM) is also a standard corporate work tool. Historically, Blackberry has been optimized for delivering corporate email in a secure manner. Newer Blackberry devices support features such as touchscreen capability, and there is a market for applications called App World. Earlier this year, RIM released its first tablet that supports WiFi connectivity at present only in standalone mode, or can be “tethered” to your Blackberry. In tether mode, the tablet connects via Bluetooth to your Blackberry – and then uses the Blackberry connection to the mobile network to obtain connectivity.
3. Battery Life
A word of warning to any user of a mobile device: as mobile devices are really now very powerful computing platforms, it is important to note that battery life is a huge challenge. Apple devices do not support removable/replaceable batteries, so unless you have a charger nearby, you can’t swap a battery. If you are a heavy user of an iPhone, it is very much worth it to purchase the Mophie Juice Pack accessory which can quickly recharge your iPhone. There are some great reviews of the Juice Pack found here. Android and Blackberry devices support replaceable batteries, so it is no problem to have a second one handy. Note though that if you replace the battery in a Blackberry, it will take quite a bit of time to power up again, as there are a number of security checks that take place each time a Blackberry powers up from a “cold start.”
4. Data Cards
You can also purchase data cards, which allow you to connect a laptop to the mobile phone network of your choice using a USB port on your computer. Verizon’s new 4G data cards are a great choice here; the upload/download speeds are very fast as described previously. These data cards also work with both Macintosh as well as PCs.
Equipping your entire staff with mobile devices can be an expensive proposition. However, there is a policy that is starting to take shape and hold across many companies (including Thomson Reuters) whereby personal devices are being allowed onto corporate networks. The work-life balance has become the “work-life blur,” and companies can take advantage of employees who already use iPhones (for example) as a personal device. It is quite simple to add email accounts from a variety of sources such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft Exchange. A bit later in this article, we’ll talk about the security measures that you need to put in to make this safe.
6. Phone Calls
While most people today that are on a mobile phone contract have more minutes than they use in any particular month, the sticker shock that can come with going beyond your bundle package can make for a rude awakening, especially if you have to deal with partners or clients that are internationally based. One of the best alternatives here to consider is Skype. Skype, like similar Internet phone services, uses your data connection as a means of conducting a phone or chat session. The cost to call other Skype users is free (subject to you having a data plan), and the cost to call non-Skype users is very low. For example (at time of writing), the cost to call someone in the United Kingdom from the USA on a “pay as you go” rate is as low at 2.3 cents per minute.
7. Accessing the Web While Mobile
Mobile data is being consumed at enormous rates and much of this has to do with the ease in which the browser on the phone interacts with sites that have been specifically designed for mobile. Businesses are developing their IT systems such that they recognize whether it is a personal computer or a mobile phone requesting access – and then delivering a site that is specifically designed for one or the other.
That said, not all sites are designed this way today. This can create problems for access, specifically if you are trying to view a site that has Adobe Flash content. Products from Apple and Blackberry (with the exception of the Blackberry tablet) do not render Flash content. Devices from Android are all capable of viewing sites with Flash.
8. Mobile Applications
Apple recently announced that they had achieved over 15 billion application downloads since the launch of their AppStore just a couple years ago. It would be impossible to list them all as so many are useful and interesting and helpful to a job. That said, here are a couple of applications that are very much worth trying.
Evernote: Capture notes, images, and even audio recordings on your PC or mobile device and sync them into the cloud. You can then access them from practically any device. Evernote works on iPad/iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Macintosh, and Windows PC. �
WebEX: Cisco’s universal WebEX client runs in the PC/Macintosh environment and also has versions that work on iPad/iPhone and Android.
Zite: Though Zite runs only on the iPad, it is one of finest applications available. Zite is a personalized magazine that lets you select the content sections that populate the app. Zite then scours the web and brings content to you based on your interests; the clever part about Zite is that with each story, you can tell Zite if you like the story, want more from the publication/author that originated the story, and can tell Zite to look for similar stories based on keywords. You also can easily share stories you find via Twitter, Facebook, or email. Zite essentially learns what you like/dislike and tunes its search as you teach it.
9. Corporate Security
The most important thing to understand about data and mobile devices is the inevitability of phones being lost, broken, or stolen. Thus, it is critical that a solution focuses on protecting any sensitive data rather than worrying about recovery of the device. There are some very simple things that can be done to protect yourself and your user base.
If you plan to connect your phone into a Microsoft email Exchange server, you should have the IT department force a passcode to be set with a short timeout. If you don’t use Exchange, you can still set your phone to have a passcode, and this is a must if you have any sort of corporate email or data resident. You should also remote wipe the contents of your phone as soon as you realize it is missing. The instructions to do this vary by operating system, but the key is to know that Blackberry, Apple, and Android phones all have this capability.
By setting an IT policy that forces a PIN code/lock to kick in, you achieve some degree of assurance that a lost or stolen phone will not result in email/system theft. In addition, when an employee leaves the company, it is very simple to have that email access revoked. Good background information is available from Apple on this topic.
10. Device Security
It is also important to note that the operating system itself in your phone has varying degrees of security capabilities: Blackberries are the most secure, then Apple’s iOS, then Android. In fact, Android devices tend to have the weakest overall device security by default; you should consider adding a third party solution such as MobileIron, Good Technology or similar to create a more secure environment.
Don’t put a “jailbroken” or “rooted” phone into your corporate environment. Jailbreaking is a term used by developers who have created a version of iOS software that lets them use third party applications on iPads/iPhones that do not come from the Apple AppStore. “Rooting” refers to a similar term in the Android space. Stick only with the software provided by the handset manufacturer.
In summary, the use of a mobile phone/tablet can be extremely helpful in managing your daily workflow. There are things you need to be aware of to stay safe as our reliance increases on these products, but the value in personalization, portability, and immediacy is without question a real asset in staying productive and connected throughout the day.
|The information in this Top Ten should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or the ACC. This Top Ten is not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, it is intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.|