I remember a time when the Pocket PC was king. It was the device of choice in businesses up and down the land. You could connect it to your Exchange server and, with a small stylus or an on-board slide-out keyboard, you could work anywhere. It was a revelation at the time.
As time went by, the Blackberry came to be the default choice instead. It was secure, it was easy to use and many still remise about that tiny but usable keyboard which let them reply to work emails and conduct business affairs on a cramped train, a coffee shop queue or a walk to the shops.
Now though, now things are very different. Some business tell you to bring your own device, whilst others supply Android handsets or iPhones which are monitored and locked down by mobile device management software.
It’s this software, which sits in the background, that helps your IT department minimise the risk of you having that phone in your pocket outside the boundaries of work. Simply connecting to a “free” WiFi hotspot in a restaurant is a risk to your employer, especially when you’re moving secure company information over the wire.
So now, from dealing with permissions to preventing actions by hostile apps, the demand for a solution that addresses these challenges is huge.
Meeting Trouble Head-On
As mentioned above, many enterprises turn to mobile device management software. We’ll call it “MDM”, but it’s basically a way to see and handle potential problems posed by those ultra-mobile devices. Whilst a client sits on your mobile phone, this will also typically connect to a server-based solution which can then be accessed elsewhere to complete a wide range of administrative duties.
In the world of IT, handling and addressing risk is key. You either accept it, deny it, or come up with a solution that gets rid of it or reduces it to an acceptable level. The “MDM” software addresses the same problems that all network administrators have faced for years. Everything from viruses to the use of escalated permissions. Unfortunately, every computer-related problem carries with it a slew of additional issues when mobile devices are introduced to this equation.
One survey noted that nearly three quarters of companies plan to allow internal users to have access to business data through those bring-your-own-device policies. This can present major hazards. For example, the new graphic designer a company hired might have simply rooted his personal phone in order to defeat the GPS feature in Pokemon Go, but this could present a major problem for his company. No motivation is too small for a user to endanger a network, so an abundance of caution is in order when using a BYOD policy.
Implementing an MDM system isn’t entirely about avoiding those risks I mentioned earlier. The “MDM” server can also help streamline the provisioning of apps and can reduce the overhead on your IT team. With a server in place, a business can permit employees and contractors a chance to quickly download and start using specific apps.
The “MDM” also offers powerful network-based solutions. If a company wants to quickly wipe a set device that has been lost or stolen, or a whole set of devices, it’s much simpler from an administrative viewpoint. Similarly, new employees can be handed devices that are preconfigured with everything required to be productive on the first day. No waiting. No fafing around. New versions of apps can also be readily rolled out to users. If an employee has been fired, it’s easy to lock down devices to ensure that unauthorized access doesn’t occur. Enterprises may also use installed dashboards on their servers to monitor traffic and make decisions about the amount of resources they need to have available on any given workday.
There are two basic approaches to deploying that “MDM”. Software as a service and on-premises servers. SaaS will typically entail using a cloud-based system to act as an intermediary. On-premises models tend to use servers that are similar to what your business is probably already utilizing for other IT needs. A wide range of big names in the computing world, such as Microsoft and IBM, offer available options.
The same compliance issues that accompany setting up any applications on network will apply when using MDM. For example, American companies handling medical information are expected to be compliant with HIPAA requirements.
Administrators will also want to keep an eye on who has access to what. While it can be exciting to roll out a slate of apps company-wide, it’s usually wiser to assign users to specific groups. People in the purchasing department may have different needs than folks in IT. In addition to prevent unwarranted access to systems, this approach also reduces the amount of fiddling around end users have to do in order to find and download the apps they actually need.
The use of mobile devices has improved many processes within the business world, but it also carries with it immense challenges. It’s nice to know that a buyer in Guangzhou can quickly access a dashboard in order to see what inventory requirements are. Unfortunately, there are potential risks everywhere that buyer goes. Similarly, that buyer won’t have access to a dashboard if their device wasn’t properly configured in the first place. By using a single MDM system to get all mobile users running on the same set of proscribed apps, a company can streamline things for everyone.