September 29, 2011, 4:45 PM — Want to take advantage of the smartphone and tablet revolution so your business will be more productive and your employees more satisfied? Unfortunately, someone has to support all of those devices and platforms. And if that someone is you, you'll find that keeping up with the latest tech changes, managing disparate devices, and integrating them into your existing network take considerable time and energy. The time is well spent, however, because a smart mobile strategy--addressing issues such as wireless provisioning, device and application management, and security--is one of the best ways to prepare your business for the future.
Determine Your Needs
If your business requires nothing more than email, calendaring, and shared contacts, then using Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync makes sense. EAS doesn't have much overhead, and it works whether you have an all-Android, all-Apple, or all-RIM (with BES Express, an additional BlackBerry component) mobile infrastructure, or a mix of devices and platforms. It's also straightforward to install and requires minimal setup on the mobile device.
If you want to manage your devices with greater granularity, or if you think that you may need additional capabilities down the road, you'll have to look beyond the EAS. If your business uses only RIM devices, using the RIM BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) or BES Express (which is free) is a sensible choice. These days, though, few businesses have such a homogeneous environment. More common is a mix of Android, Apple, RIM, Windows, and other devices.
In that situation, you should consult your cellular carrier, which will have partnered with a mobile device management service. Among the major names in this field are AirWatch, BoxTone, Good Technology, MobileIron, and Ubitexx. These services can help you manage your mobile devices by simplifying the integration of multiple mobile device platforms even across different carrier networks. They typically provide a single console that covers billing, inventory management, security, and compliance, and they may even have an integrated app store that permits users to download only qualified and approved apps to their mobile devices.
Keeping Tabs on Costs
Before you can manage a collection of cellular devices, you have to know how many devices are involved, and who has what. Maintaining an inventory of your mobile assets is critical because, if you don't know what devices you have in your organization, you won't be able to keep track of your bills and spending, both for wireless service and for hardware.