Facebook, mobile and secure access

Facebook has been in the news again recently with an announcement that it now has more mobile users than desktop users on a daily basis - 680 million of them.  Clearly, this is fantastic news for a company which is pushing its mobile advertising business as the future, but it’s what it tells us about how consumer habits are changing which is of wider value to businesses.

It seems like everyone has a smartphone (or two), but according to recent reports, UK smartphone penetration is still only at 44 per cent. The same reports estimate that this will grow to about 75 per cent in 2016, at which point 4G will also have started to assert itself. This means more people will be accessing more data, more often from their mobiles. The knock on effect for businesses and their data centres is potentially huge as requests for data will continue to boom.

But it’s not just about the traffic capacity of the data centre, it’s also about the context of the requests. For instance, if your website features lots of flash but half of your traffic is coming from iOS devices you’re going to have a consumer experience problem if half the site is blank. You want your data centre to look at the information coming in, figure out what the limitations and capabilities of the device are, and deliver the right version of the site to give the best possible user experience. Beyond having this capability in place, businesses also need to ensure the process is carried out quickly, data is available at all times and delivered in a secure manner – three key considerations which we must always keep in mind. 

Facebook is a great example of a company which delivers this kind of context aware service (when was the last time you received an unusable or useless page from it?). Its servers automatically detect the platform a user is on and whether they have the access rights to the page they have requested  before delivering it in a fast and secure manner. But this isn’t just an issue for consumer facing businesses. It’s not hard to imagine that a CEO or other employees may want to access corporate information from home using a smartphone or tablet – they won’t be too happy if they are confronted by error messages instead of the latest sales projections.

Context and mobile can go further than this though. What if your CEO is on holiday in the south of France and wants the same information? Probably fine, with a few tweaks to the network security and encryption. What about if they’re on business in Yemen? Well, you might need the server to run through a few more levels of security and identity verification, and so on. So much of what is enabled by remote servers and mobile access depends on an awareness of context in a secure environment, and everyone needs to be sure that they’re equipped to cope. The key is in ensuring that your servers ask the right questions of incoming traffic in order to deliver the best possible end user experience.

Published Feb 08, 2013
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