Spotlight on mobile device management

What is mobile device management? Why are you hearing more about it? How does it affect you? We cover all this and more.

Half of the workforce is expected to use smartphones by 2013, and while using mobile devices presents undeniable advantages, helping employees stay connected anywhere, anytime, there is also increased security risk. Here's what you need to know about mobile device management in the enterprise.

What is mobile device management?
How does mobile device management work?
How much does an MDM platform cost?
What are the benefits of having an MDM solution?
What are the risks involved in not having a comprehensive MDM platform?
Which MDM solution is right for you?
How do I get started with an MDM strategy?
Which mobile platform is most secure?
What do users need to know about MDM?
What are some good resources for finding MDM help?

Resources: Stacy K. Crook, "Market Analysis Worldwide Mobile Device Management Enterprise, 2011-2015 Forecast and 2010 Vendor Shares," IDC, August 2011 Gartner, "Gartner Says Mobile Device Management Is Essential for IT Success," May 2012 Ellen Messmer, "Gartner: Cloud-based mobile device management (MDM) getting hot," Network World, June 2012 Trend Micro, "Enterprise Readiness of Consumer Mobile Platforms," 2012 Osterman Research, Inc., "Mobile Devices in the Enterprise: MDM Usage and Adoption Trends," July 2012

What is mobile device management?

Mobile device management (MDM) is defined as the ability to secure, manage, monitor and support mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and portable computers. Most MDM strategies include having mobile devices password protected, wireless distribution of applications and the ability to wipe devices remotely if they are lost or stolen. As more employees bring their own devices into the workplace, MDM is becoming increasingly more important.

How does mobile device management work?

Mobile device management starts when MDM applications are loaded onto a new device. This can be done in a number of ways, from users clicking an SMS message with an embedded URL linking to the MDM resource server to being directed to download the application through an app store. These applications begin monitoring the smartphone, tablet or laptop to determine its current state. Changes are then made to the device so that it stays compliant with company policy for mobile devices, which includes implementing security features. Going forward, the organization wirelessly controls the mobile device as necessary, adding or disabling features, backing up data or reacting to changes on the device.

How much does an MDM platform cost?

That depends. Right now, most companies still use on-premise MDM platforms which are more expensive and time consuming for IT. According to an Osterman Research survey, the current IT labor cost for MDM was $229 per user in 2011, $294 in 2012, and is expected to reach to $339 in 2013. This rise of 48 percent in two years is largely attributed to BYOD. However, since 31 percent of organizations that currently use an in-house platform plan to switch to a cloud-based platform within the next year, the price per device cost of MDM will likely start to drop.

What are the benefits of having an MDM solution?

The primary benefit of mobile device management is having a unified, secure mobile network for your organization. But MDM also offers additional benefits to corporations and employees alike. Having an MDM solution makes it possible for employees to use their own devices at work, saving the company money and allowing employees to have a device of their choosing. Also, since most mobile device management is done wirelessly, IT does not have to work around employee schedules, saving time and money.

What are the risks involved in not having a comprehensive MDM platform?

Above all, MDM is about security. Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting mobile devices since most do not come with security software installed. Additionally, Americans, on average, lose their smartphones at least once a year, and only half of those phones are returned to their rightful owner. Employing a MDM solution ensures that the corporate data on those devices will not fall into the wrong hands.

Which MDM solution is right for you?

The first question you need to address is if you want an on-premise or an SaaS solution. Currently, the vast majority of companies employ an in-house platform, but SaaS solutions offer certain advantages. For instance, the speed with which new users can get set up is significantly faster with a cloud-based service, in some instances under 24 hours. Furthermore, SaaS platforms are less expensive, and they free your IT staff to attend to other issues. Once you decide if you want an on-premise or SaaS solution, other factors to bear in mind when searching for MDM vendors include functionality, security features, vendor support, and flexibility. Make sure potential vendors can work with all necessary operating systems, provide enough security features to meet your needs and offer support when you need it.

How do I get started with an MDM strategy?

First, you need to ask yourself a few fundamental questions. Which devices is your organization going to support? Will you allow employees to bring their own devices? How are you going to handle security? Many companies find providing employees with company devices on a single operating system simplifies mobile device management, though they still make exceptions for employees wanting to use a different operating system. Others buy devices for their employees but have employees pay their own wireless bills. Still others let employees bring their own devices. Whatever you choose, decide upon a MDM vendor that supports all the operating systems you will be using and make sure that the devices chosen meet security and enterprise needs. Devices should be password protected and have the ability to be wiped remotely if necessary. Wiping a device would remove all personal data along with company data from the phone, include photos and videos, and employees need to be aware of this possibility.

Which mobile platform is most secure?

A recent study by TrendMicro looked at security and manageability among the four leading smartphone operating systems. They found that Blackberry, which was designed with enterprise in mind, is the most mature and therefore the most secure of the four operating systems, trailed by Apple iOS, Windows Phone and Android, respectively. In fact, the TrendMicro research found that Android is the preferred operating system of cybercriminals. Of course, with appropriate precautions, Android devices can be just as secure as other devices, but users should be aware of potential risks.

What do users need to know about MDM?

First, the downside: if users have hooked up their personal device to the company network, it is no longer only their device. That device now holds important corporate data, and with that shift comes the possibility that the enterprise can wipe the entire contents of their smartphone or tablet, including personal photos and videos, if it is lost or stolen. Also, the organization has the ability to constantly monitor users’ devices. And when they know what users are doing, they might not approve. As part of a security policy, companies can tell users what they can and cannot do on their devices, like which apps they can download and what an appropriately secure password is.

Now the upside: working away from the office just got easier. Users can stay in touch better, keep up with what is going on at the office without having to actually be there. And users can choose which device they prefer. No more carrying around a personal smartphone and a company smartphone; they are now one and the same.

What are some good resource for finding MDM help?

More companies offering MDM solutions are popping up all the time and it can be a hassle finding out which one will work best for you. Luckily, Gartner did the work for you, compiling a list of some of the industry’s top MDM vendors.

What’s wrong? The new clean desk test
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies