Mobile Device Management (MDM)

What it is and why it matters

Have you ever imagined a day when you could stretch out on the beach, watch the waves roll in, and relax while you get your work done on a mobile device?

With today’s mobile devices, these dreams are becoming a reality. According to a Security Intelligence survey, over 60% of organisations allow employees to use their personal devices to access business data.  At the same time, only 11% have no such plans to allow these devices.

Unfortunately, there are some logistical challenges to having employees work from anywhere using their own devices. Mobile device management (MDM) helps solve some of these logistics issues. It provides over-the-air distribution of data, applications, and configuration settings for different types of mobile devices.

MDM could be applied to:

  • laptops
  • smart phones
  • tablets
  • mobile printers

MDM allows organisations to protect and control these devices while reducing business risks and support costs.

How MDM helps organisations

So, why are organisations suddenly concerned with managing mobile devices? The answer lies with the bring your own device (BYOD) movement that has occurred in recent years. There has been a strong demand for employees to bring personal devices to work. They feel comfortable using these devices and are willing to pay the costs of maintenance, upgrades, and liability.

Some benefits of BYOD include:

  • Happier employees
  • Reduced equipment cost
  • Reduced office space since it allows employees to work off-site
  • Decreased burden on IT staff (employees are maintaining and supporting their own equipment)

Some benefits of mobile device management include:

It allows responsible BYOD

MDM allows for responsible BYOD where employees are able to bring their own personal devices to work with minimal risk to the organisation.

Remote device management

As these mobile devices become critical to the organisation, it becomes necessary for IT to be able to manage these devices and even control them when they have problems. MDM gives IT the ability to administer these devices remotely.

Improved security

With employees traveling more often and using devices in remote locations, security becomes even more of a concern. If a device is stolen or misplaced, there can be serious security implications. Using MDM software, administrators can segment the user’s personal information from the corporate data. It allows them to encrypt the sensitive corporate information. If a device is stolen or the person leaves your organisation, the corporate information can be removed remotely without harming their personal data.

Application control

Using MDM software, organisations can maintain application control. This allows the number of application licenses to be monitored to maintain software compliance.

Picking the right vendor for your organisation

There are several companies that make MDM software including:

As you can see, there are several competitors in this area. Here are some factors that will help you differentiate which vendor is right for you:

Does the MDM software support the mobile operating systems you use? Whether it is Android, iOS, Windows, Blackberry, or some other platform, you need to make sure it is fully supported.

Does the MDM software support enterprise content management? Many organisations use cloud-based services like dropbox.com and box.com to store files in the cloud. Enterprise content management can help reduce the security risk of using these services.

Does the MDM software support cloud delivery? While many MDM platforms started out as on-premise software, more and more of these vendors are moving to the cloud. Gartner Research predicts that more MDM services will move to the cloud within the next few years. Cloud-based MDM can be beneficial to smaller organisations because it has a lower cost per device.

Does the MDM service integrate with other service management security platforms? Some vendors like McAfee and Symantec will allow MDM products to integrate with their security policy engines. This can give organisations more options for enhanced security.

Challenges with BYOD

Bring your own device brings a variety of security concerns. Tablets, smart phones, desktop PCs, and laptops can all come preinstalled with programs that have questionable intentions. Whether it is trial versions of antivirus software or actual malware installed on the device, these are possible security vulnerabilities.

When you add to that the number of Trojans, viruses, spyware, and miscellaneous apps that appear to be legitimate but are actually malware, the problem becomes even scarier. For example, 97% of known mobile malware is made for the Android operating system.

Using mobile device management software is critical to keeping these unwanted programs off devices.

Successfully implementing MDM

Employee education

The first step in employee education is to establish protocols with employees about their devices. These will include acceptable use guidelines, education about forbidden applications, and how to avoid activities that can infect their hardware.

Managing applications

"What we have been seeing in the last year is that while customers view security as the primary driver for buying an MDM, the ability to manage mobile apps has rapidly become the secondary driver. What this comes down to is the ability both to keep bad apps out of devices and to allow good apps in," said Ojas Rege, strategy vice president with California-based MDM vendor MobileIron.

Once you have your MDM software up and running you should:

  • Configure the MDM software so that it requires a password to be used on each device.
  • Set up data encryption on each device so the corporate data can be encrypted.
  • Set up remote device lock and wipe so that if a device is ever lost or stolen the data cannot be accessed.
  • Set up jailbreak and root protection, which would free a device from many of the OS-level security restrictions that would allow employees to bypass the security controls that are created by the MDM.
  • Set up enterprise app stores where employees can download apps that are maintained by the organisation and provide the proper level of security. These apps can also be configured so they include the correct setup after install.
  • Provide white-lists for applications that are not available on the enterprise app store. Make it easy for your employees to let you know when they need an application that is not on the enterprise app store, so it can be easily added in the future. Blacklisting applications allows you to keep malicious or undesirable applications off your mobile devices.
  • Configure application security within the application wrapping section. This will allow you to make applications more secure by disabling functions like copy and paste for items where you don’t want information to be moved outside of your software.
  • Security wipe of corporate data. Set up your software so if the employee leaves an organisation or changes their role, it is possible to remove the corporate data from the device without affecting the user’s personal data on the machine.
  • Set up remote configuration so that you can control security, application, and other configuration settings on the device.
  • Set up remote inventory. Seek to maintain a list of what software is installed on each machine and alert the user if a problem exists.

With MDM, your employees are a little closer to spending their days using their mobile devices to get work done. This makes for happier employees and potentially better organisations.

R & G Technologies Mobile Device Management Solutions

Are you interested in mobile device management?

We have experience helping organisations make the transition can can help you see the benefits of increased efficiencies, improved productivity and minimised downtime.

Request a no obligation free MDM assessment today.

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