Businesses Getting Started with Mobile Device Management

More businesses than ever before are finding themselves in a position where they need to figure out a way to fully embrace mobile device use that goes beyond their executive and sales teams. In a sense IT teams are being forced into this transition. Many people have completely incorporated smartphones and tablets into their daily lives. For many reasons transition is due to operating systems from Apple and Google.

Most people are choosing the personal user experience of Android and iPhone over the mainly business format of BlackBerry devices. People have also adopted these formats in their personal lives, combining activities like web browsing, games and mobile banking with business uses such as corporate email and other work related tasks. We will cover some of the ways you can seamlessly get a handle on your mobile device management (MDM).

A recent survey found that 84 percent of individuals use their mobile phone for both personal and work related tasks. The same survey also revealed that 47 percent of respondents don’t have a password on their phone. Now consider this, a Kensington report claims that 70 million mobile phones are lost each year, with only 7 percent ever being recovered. If you implement a mobile device policy at your business, you need to carefully consider what security measures you will set in place.

You need solid data on the mobile devices being used in your company, otherwise making decisions and quantifying risks about the devices being used by your employees is very difficult. For example, it’s not uncommon for an employee who has left your company to still be using your corporate mobile devices. You can’t stop this unless you know about it.

With a reporting and inventory tool, you can keep tabs on how mobile devices are being used and by whom. Require your employees to use a strong password of at least four characters. Make sure you set up the devices to automatically lock after 5-15 minutes of inactivity. Another good security measure is to configure devices to automatically wipe clean after 10 failed logins and enable local encryption. Some companies will have the need for even stronger security measures. This should be handled after considering what your threat level is and the sensitivity of your information. All companies however, need to make security their number one concern.

Next, decide whether users should use a “sandbox” environment for business data. A sandbox is like a virtualized environment within the mobile device’s regular environment. This is where everything inside the sandbox is controlled by IT, everything outside the sandbox looks and feels like the user’s normal device environment, and resources are not shared between the two. The advantage of a sandbox is that corporate data is kept walled off and highly secure. The downside is that the user must effectively juggle two email clients, two calendar apps and so on. This includes sacrificing using the phone’s native environment at least part of the time.

Your next step will be to examine the platforms that need to be managed. Clearly iOS and Android need to be covered by an MDM, but what about Windows Phone, BlackBerry and Symbian? Different MDM options may not cover all platforms, or they may not offer the same range of functionality across the platforms that are covered. Be sure to examine feature support platforms.

Consideration needs to be given to who will handle support. Companies that are looking for minimal IT burden may prefer a remotely hosted MDM service. For locally administered services, investigate whether it would be more beneficial to run the MDM server as a virtual machine or from a dedicated server appliance.

If application deployment and management is part of the mobile device management strategy, make sure that the product can accommodate custom apps as well as off-the-shelf commercial titles, if necessary.

Not to be forgotten, consider compliance issues. In regulated industries, figure out how the MDM impact your company’s ability to meet compliance requirements, log data and activities and maintain attestable security. Usually, to which degree two competing MDM options can answer this point will decide which is best for a given business.

It is estimated that the value of data lost on a device is between $24,000 and $32,000. Which means, if you lose a device and it wasn’t secured, you are throwing away data worth a sizeable amount of cash. However, losing data doesn’t necessarily mean it will fall into your competitor’s hands, this makes it hard to quantify. But you can look at cases where companies have been fined for losing information. A return on investment could be provided by preventing the loss of data. Another way of looking at it is decreased need for help desk.

As with most infrastructure changes, implementing MDM may not be easy or inexpensive. However, the productivity, security and capability benefits of a well-planned MDM deployment will inevitably outweigh the costs and learning curve.

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