An Introduction to Mobile Device Management
According to the latest surveys, roughly 90 percent of U.S. adults under 50 own a smartphone. With a mobile device in nearly every pocket, the way that businesses approach and use these miniature computers has shifted dramatically in the past few years. Many workplaces—especially small businesses—have a "bring your own device" (BYOD) attitude, allowing employees to connect their personal devices to the corporate network.
This might seem like a cost-effective way to manage a new tech program, but it could also bring its own trouble. There are increased security risks, data privacy concerns and the management burden of the hardware, operating systems, and providers that employees use. These challenges aren’t unique. There are now a number of software solutions for mobile device management (MDM).
Here’s a quick overview of everything you need to know about MDM for your business.
What Is MDM?
Mobile device management, as the name suggests, refers to the administration of mobile devices within a corporate IT environment—practically speaking, this is smartphones and tablets that leave the office. IT research and advisory firm Gartner notes that if covers these five areas:
- Software distribution - Ensuring all devices have integrated, up-to-date software for work product, printer, network or off-site, VPN access
- Policy management - Overseeing compliance with security and use guidelines for all devices while on the network.
- Inventory management - Tracking devices, removing access to expired devices or during employee turnover, maintaining company inventory, and inventory on loan to employees
- Security management - Governing access to company systems and data, protecting proprietary information, fortifying against network threats
- Service management - Helpdesk solves troubleshooting, software and hardware upgrades, maintaining compatibility between company-issued and personal devices.
What you get when you tackle MDM head-on
- Regulatory compliance: Many businesses, especially those in highly regulated industries such as healthcare and finance, must adhere to strict and lengthy compliance standards. Using MDM software to track and collect information gives you a paper trail that the devices on your network meet these standards.
- Cost savings: MDM software saves you the time, money and effort you’d spend purchasing dozens or hundreds of company phones and setting them up for use with your network. By uniting your employees' disparate devices under a single roof, you can realize substantial savings on IT support and maintenance.
- Productivity: BYOD policies allow your employees to use their own devices from anywhere, at any time, making them more efficient and productive. However, you still have to ensure that users are using devices in compliance and only for work-related activities in cases of licensed software or other proprietary programs.
- Visibility and oversight: MDM software can automatically trigger alerts when it detects suspicious messages and activity. With complete visibility and oversight of users' actions, it's much easier for you to anticipate and prevent IT security concerns such as viruses and insider threats.You’ll just want to be sure you communicate with your employees just how much visibility you have with their devices.
What to Look for in an MDM tool
There are countless MDM options on the market today, which means that there's a solution for organizations of every shape and size. Some of the most important features when considering MDM software include:
- Automatic updates: Automatically updating and patching connected devices is one of the most important features in terms of security. Your choice of MDM solution should almost certainly have a way for IT administrators to push updates to devices on the network.
- Remote app removal and wiping: If a malicious application is detected on a user's device, it needs to be removed immediately before it can spread throughout the network. The device may even have to be wiped and restored to factory settings.
- Backups: Many MDM solutions eliminate traditional concerns about the fragility of smartphones by preserving the data elsewhere. In the event that a device crashes or needs to be wiped, the information it contains can easily be restored from a backup in the cloud or on the MDM server.
- Monitoring and reporting: IT administrators need to easily view and analyze real-time and historical data from connected devices. Features and functionality here may include dashboards and summaries, generic and customizable reports, GPS tracking of devices and event logging and notifications.
Choosing the Best MDM Tool for Your Business
When implementing MDM within your organization, it's crucial to first find a solution that can service most of your employees' mobile devices. The operating systems on some smartphones and tablets may simply be too old or too new to work with a given MDM solution.
Aim to select MDM software that works with the highest number of employees' devices without having to cover all of them, which may be a difficult or impossible task with so many devices and generations of devices. .Which MDM software you use depends on the breakdown of devices and operating systems of your company, your budget, your industry, and your expertise. For a good list of MDM software and systems, take a look at PC Mag’s 2017 comparison and ranking of MDM Software Suites. You can also see a roundup of new MDM Suites over at Solutions Review.
Bottom Line: How Much Does MDM Cost?
The costs of MDM can vary significantly, depending on the features, tools and other variations in your enterprise mobility program. For example, VMware's AirWatch, which is one of the top MDM solutions on the market, is currently priced at $6.33 per device per month for the most popular option, which includes additional features such as identity management and the VMware secure browser.
Rather than asking how much MDM costs, the real question should be how much money MDM can save your organization. The costs of data breaches or data exfiltration can be catastrophic for unprepared organizations, making them liable financially and legally for this unauthorized access. There is also the everyday cost of company-issued devices and upkeep if you consider the alternatives. The reassurance of a strong MDM program costs very little in comparison to a data breach or a company device program.
By now, it's clear that BYOD policies are not only here to stay but growing in popularity. To deal with the concerns that these policies present, businesses need robust MDM solutions that can monitor, control and protect the data on employees' mobile devices.
Interested in implementing a MDM program? Contact us for a free evaluation and consultation.