Mobile Archiving in an Over-connected World

Micro Focus Contributor
Micro Focus Contributor
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Information archiving and governance is an ever-changing landscape.  New technologies emerge on a seemingly daily basis. Many of these technologies are introduced with the goals of quick and early consumer adoption. The pace of this innovation is so great that governments and organizations, large and small, are challenged with how and when to incorporate these technologies into their own user base, or in the case of government, how does our existing legislation handle these new technologies. Micro Focus’s customer base span all these different market segments, so we as an organization have a great view on how our differing customers approach these challenges.

Mobile Archiving in an Over-connected World.jpgThis article will deal specifically with the challenge of archiving and governance in a mobile first world, as nowhere does the previous paragraph hold more truth than mobile technologies. People today are more connected, some may say over-connected, than ever before. We are empowered with myriad ways of communicating with business partners, friends and family. Our customers need to keep up with this. Recent federal and state law amendments, such as one with the Texas Public Information Act, require state organizations to archive all communications from mobile devices. The question they have for us is: How?

The answer is typically not so simple. Reasons:

  1. iOS and Android at first glance seem similar but under the hood they are vastly different.
  2. Organizations sometimes allow users to bring their personal devices in for work, other times they issue devices to their users, and even other times there’s a mix of both approaches. This complicates matters.
  3. The larger an organization is the more likely that their mobile devices are serviced by different carriers.
  4. There are myriad different communication tools, the law specifies that all communications must be recorded.  Some tools obfuscate communications making them impossible to record.

Apple and Google have polar opposite business models and these are reflected in their offerings of iOS and Android. Apple sells hardware to customers at high margins, they are a hardware company who happen to make software. On the other hand, Google gives Android away for free like they give most other software they make away for free (Gmail, Google Maps etc.) to consumers in return for their information (email, location, search preference etc etc etc.). They are an advertising company who happen to make software. Apple in fact is quick to point out this difference by explaining to the market that they keep their customers data private while the competition does not. How does this come into play in our current discussion? Apple iOS, unlike Android, provides no way for 3rd parties to access the communication and messaging data, this includes iMessage. Technically this fact makes iOS the inferior choice if monitoring and archiving of data is of concern.

It is easy for us to go into a customer and tell them that they should switch to all Android and no longer allow end users to bring their own devices to work in order to make compliance with regulatory laws as easy as possible. However, as the reader is likely fully aware, mobile policies at organizations are already very entrenched and change is a dirty word. Therefore, we have come to terms a long time ago (Micro Focus technology help pioneer mobile archiving back in 2007[1]) that there is no “silver bullet”. Instead we have three methodologies that we can work with customer to deploy in the best way possible to cover their mobile use cases.

  1. Mobile Archiving Agents
  2. Over-the-top Messaging Applications
  3. In-Network Mobile Communication Capture

The rest of this article will focus on explaining the above three methodologies and their specific use cases, pros and cons.

Mobile Archiving Agent

A mobile archiving agent is a mobile application that is installed on a mobile device. It runs in the background monitoring and capturing mobile communications such as SMS, MMS, phone calls and RCS. It requires no end-user interaction. An astute reader will immediately guess that this application only supports Android since as stated earlier, Apple iOS provides no 3rd party access to mobile communications on the devices. Luckily Android does. As this application needs to support only one operating system and requires no front end its cost is very low. Therefore:

Pros:

  • Low cost of ownership
  • No end user training, low to zero end user interaction
  • Easy to deploy with mobile device management
  • Can work across any number of carriers

Cons:

  • Only supports Android
  • Does not support “Bring Your Own Device”

The take away from the pros and cons indicate that while very clean and inexpensive, the fact that only Android is supported and that devices that are personally owned must be excluded due to that fact that potentially personal messaging will be archived, tend to make this approach rather exclusive to organization that already manage their regulated users very closely. 

Over-the-top Messaging Application

An over-the-top messaging application is an application that is installed on a mobile device that provides an end user with full messaging and communication facilities baked into the application. These applications tend to go further than other messaging applications (such as WhatsApp) as they are specifically geared towards business use cases. They also allow for sending and receiving SMS and MMS messages to any other devices on any other carrier. They allow for internal users to send instant messages between themselves. They also have Web interfaces for use on any device and also have facilities for sending and receiving files and documents. All communications passing through this app (voice/message) can be archived automatically. Therefore:

Pros:

  • Supports iOS and Android
  • Supports “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD)
  • Provides rich set of communication tools
  • Supports any carrier

Cons:

  • Higher cost of ownership
  • Requires end-user training

The fact that this option supports both mobile OSes, BYOD and any carrier, makes this the most flexible methodology. The downside is the cost and end-user training involved. However, for organizations willing to undertake those up-front costs, there is a lot of value to be unlocked in these applications.

In-Network Mobile Communication Capture

Since all native SMS, MMS and phone calls make their way through the cellular carrier it is possible for these carriers to make copies of this data for their customers compliance needs. This happens in the way of contracts between carriers and archiving and compliance vendors such as Micro Focus. For a small per device fee, the carrier will copy mobile communication data and securely send that data to the customers Retain Unified Archiving solution or other system.

Pros:

  • Easy to deploy, no applications involved
  • Supports both iOS and Android
  • No end-user interaction or training

Cons:

  • Does not support BYOD
  • Only available on select few carriers

This option is clearly the easiest to deploy as there is zero friction for end-users. It’s platform agnostic support for any mobile OS makes this option seem very flexible, however, only very few carriers at this time offer this feature plus BYOD devices are excluded. 

Conclusion

It is a rarity to find an organization that can deploy a one solution fits all approach, especially for medium to large sized organization. Micro Focus becomes the trusted advisors our customers rely on to craft a combination methodology that best takes into account, cost, change-management and ease of deployment that will enable our customers to comply with internal or external regulations around mobile archiving or any other communication governance needs from email to social messaging.

 

[1] Introduction of Retain for BlackBerry Enterprise Server

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