7 steps to effective MDM

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"Organizations are rapidly moving from using mobile devices simply as communication tools - email, voice - to using them as general-purpose computing tools," says Bryan Taylor, research director at Gartner.

The evolution of mobile devices into productivity tools is driving development of the Mobile Device Management (MDM) market, which is set to grow at a CAGR of 22.7 percent until 2019, according to TechNavio.

Most readers probably know about Mobile Device Management but for those who don’t here’s a quick description: Enterprise IT can use MDM to define and maintain mobile policies for use of devices from various platforms with corporate services.

These solutions usually include management overlays for applications and content and also ensure devices comply with corporate security and usage policy.

A wisely chosen MDM solution will enable your employees to access your enterprise solutions data using any device on any platform from anywhere in the world.

These pointers should help guide you when selecting an MDM solution, and do make sure you test your chosen system(s) before you commit.

Think first

Don’t just rush out to choose an MDM solution, take a step back and think about your business. What does your business need today and what might it need tomorrow? Do you need to support wearable devices? If you do permit BYOD among employees, what is your policy on Bluetooth device support, self-installed apps or sharing services like Dropbox? Considering questions like these should help you define a clear mobile strategy to guide your MDM deployment.

Flexibility

As you put together your mobile strategy it’s likely you’ll realize the importance of flexibility as mobile device requirements in your enterprise change. You must already manage phones, tablets and soon wearable devices, but your system (or system provider if you choose an outsourced MDM solution) must be sufficiently agile to support new devices and form factors as they reach market. The capacity to support your choice of platform and device is critical. This gets even better when your MDM system can be managed via a Web console from any dedicated device.

Cloud or on premises

If you only need to support a few dozen devices then an on premises solution often makes more sense than an outsourced cloud based deployment. However, even the smallest enterprise must still be capable of rising to security challenges and delivering 24/7 support, and must be capable of successfully navigating common problems such as simultaneous registration (the latter isn’t a huge problem from an SME, but may be a huge problem across larger deployments).

While it’s certainly true cloud or SaaS-based systems will require lower infrastructure investment, are faster to implement and cheaper to support, they can pose security concerns in some industries. Whatever choices you do explore need to be capable of supporting the regulatory frameworks in place in your location. Finally, how do the license fees compare between on-site, hybrid, and/or cloud-based solutions?

Customisation

Your business needs are subject to change. MDM solutions must be flexible enough to support those changes, and must be easily customizable to reflect those changes. This means MDM must quickly, reliably and easily put new security policy or applications in place. It also means your chosen solution must be capable of supporting any key requirements within your enterprise or industry that aren’t provided as standard within the basic solution. This means that when you are in search of an MDM solution you should make sure to check it can truly deliver what you need.

Scalability

It shouldn’t really matter if your enterprise needs to support a dozen devices or a thousand. Your MDM system must easily scale up (or down) in response to business needs, within a clearly defined cost structure. Your MDM system should be capable of protecting both enterprise-owned and personally owned devices, reflecting the nature of BYOD deployment.

Global reach

MDM solutions must extend their protection worldwide. Being global isn’t enough in isolation, your MDM solution must also be reliable: given MDM can be in charge of almost every aspect of mobile enterprise IT, you may need systems to be 99.9 percent reliable, 24-hours per day – wherever in the world your people happen to be. Perhaps consider outsourcing elements of your enterprise infrastructure in order to enable such internationalization within different regulatory environments. This global reach should also extend to tech support and service level agreements, your business matters and you need high-quality support that’s internationally available 24-hours a day.

Security

It doesn’t matter if you choose an on-site, hybrid or pure cloud MDM solution, you require fast and immediate incident response; rapid security updates across all your servers and devices and robust malware protection, including switched on threat management systems capable of monitoring events to identify suspicious activity. Given the value of your corporate data, mobile device solutions must also provide features like remote lock and wipe; app management including rogue app identification; and real-time roaming notifications. Persistent logs and audit trails are also essential as you attempt to manage mobile staff. 

 

We hope these pointers help guide you in researching your available MDM options. Read about Business Everywhere Smart, our flexible mobile access solution for mobile workforces

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men’s interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.