On Wednesday, Research In Motion (RIM) officially announced and demonstrated the latest version of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), the core piece of BlackBerry infrastructure for secure, mobile enterprise messaging, at a press event in New York City.
Though many of the details on BES 5.0 leaked months ago, some of the tweaks and feature enhancements outlined yesterday should be particularly interesting to CIOs and their BlackBerry administrators. Formerly codenamed "Argon"-in reference to the element, which is particularly stable-BES 5.0 is designed to increase the "R" in CIOs' Return on Investment (ROI) without increasing the "I," says Alan Panezic, RIM's VP of software product management.
Panezic also calls BES 5.0 "the highest quality release of BES ever." Here are five reasons why.
1) Redefined, Web-Based BlackBerry Administration Service in BES 5.0
The new BlackBerry Administration Service in BES 5.0 is Web-based, meaning no desktop client needs to be installed on administrators' machines. This gives BES admins more freedom and allows them to perform BlackBerry-related tasks from machines that aren't necessary their own.
With BES 5.0, you simply log in to your BlackBerry account and you've got the full features of the BES at your fingertips.
2) Wireless Device Upgrades for BES 5.0 Users
BES 5.0 features new functionality that allows administrators to search for updates to their users' handheld operating systems (OS) directly through BES, instead of having to scour several carrier sites or RIM's own BlackBerry downloads page to see if new software is available. Admins may also now download and wirelessly push OS upgrades to individual users or groups of users, and if desired, schedule those upgrades in advance so as not to disrupt user productivity.
That improvement's no small matter, since device software upgrades are among the most-time consuming, and therefore costly, activities for BlackBerry Admins.
In the past, BES managers might have had to schedule physical upgrade appointments with individual users, eating up both the BlackBerry admin's time and the user's. With BES 5.0., an admin can plan for a user's BlackBerry to update on its own at two in the morning on a Sunday--if that time works for the user.
"The only reason you'll ever cable your device with this version [of BES] is to charge it," Panezic says.
BlackBerry users even have a say in the upgrade process; they can choose when updates take place; however, if they haven't performed the action by a set date in the system, the upgrade will go out automatically.
3) Advanced Scheduling of IT-Related Tasks in BES 5.0
Just as administrators running BES 5.0 can choose to schedule device upgrades in advance, they can schedule additional IT-related tasks ahead of time, according to Panezic. Many BlackBerry-related IT activities and troubleshooting that have traditionally required direct, physical assistance can now be scheduled and performed remotely-reducing or eliminating the need for IT to perform maintenance or updates during weekends or off-hours.
For example, BES admins can choose to push out a new application or service, or modifications to an existing application, to users automatically on a Saturday to ensure that it's available for a Monday morning meeting.
4) Fully Customizable Roles, Permissions in BES 5.0
The new version of BES also gives administrators far more control over admin and user roles and permissions. On the admin level, individual IT reps can now be assigned roles that grant access to only a specific group of BlackBerry users. This means an admin responsible for the sales team couldn't, say, make changes to the CEO's device.
BES 5.0 also gives administrators much more granular control over users' devices, so specific IT policies can be applied to individuals or groups, to restrict access to specific resources. For example, a company that has recently undergone a merger may want to restrict user access to some shared resources, while freeing up others to employees on both sides of the deal.
5) Improved Enterprise Application Management in BES 5.0
With RIM's BlackBerry Application Storefront expected next month, it only makes sense for RIM too step up its BES app management capabilities. BES 5.0 lets administrators assign a variety of application permissions to individuals or groups of users, so for example, GPS location information could be restricted on all devices except the CEO's. "Problem" or suspect users could have stricter policies applied to their devices, to say, block application access to phone information. And mobile workers could be given permission to download and utilize TeleNav Navigator, but office workers who rarely travel could have TeleNav's access to GPS restricted.
The bottom line for these new app management features: IT administrators should gain more control and piece of mind, Panezic says.
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