An Introduction to Mobile Device Management (MDM)


This article provides an overview of the key features of Mobile Device Management (MDM) software, and the role that MDM can play in ensuring your business implements a successful BYoD plan.

However you choose to deploy BYoD, it is essential that both corporate and employee devices are secured, so that business data and user details can be separated from personal information, and so that access can be controlled, and data wiped off the device, in the event of a policy breach or loss.

What is Mobile Device Management (MDM) software?

Mobile Device Management covers the end-to-end processes of securing, supporting and managing mobile devices. BYoD is driving MDM software adoption, and there are a large number of specialist software providers supporting device management and security. It can be complex to compare the different platforms available; the key features that most corporates will wish to consider are summarised below.

Cross Platform Capability

Certain devices place greater restrictions on the control that MDM software can have over the device and its content. As a result, not all features of MDM software can be used on all devices. Furthermore, some software vendors specialise in certain types of device, (e.g. Blackberry), or don’t support all devices. It is therefore essential that your business has a clear understanding of the required MDM functionality, which devices are planned for future use, and what MDM device limitations exist before implementing a BYoD plan.

Corporate Data Ring-Fencing

This capability enables businesses to separate a user’s business and personal information and profiles. This provides the business with control and security over business usage and data. Ultimately, this could enable the business to lock down or wipe corporate data and access rights without impacting on the user’s personal information.

Policy Management

Policy management features range in sophistication, but can be used to control and manage web access (whitelists/blacklists), voice calling, roaming capability, and even the use of certain phone features (e.g. cameras).

Alerting

These features enable alerts to be triggered against a wide range of security, compliance, or usage rules. For instance: breach of policy; removal of MDM software; bypassing operating system restrictions (e.g. jail-broken devices); or exceeding usage limits.

Asset & Inventory Management

These features allow the business to build and manage inventory remotely, and control/update device settings and configurations. Some platforms also enable IT teams to perform diagnostics remotely, and troubleshoot technical issues.

Location Services

These allow the business to track lost business devices, and identify last known locations, and (with permission) can track movement.

Telecom Expense Management

These ‘on-device’ logging and reporting tools enable businesses to track and report on usage at a more granular level than is available on supplier billing, and can provide near real-time alerting to help control excess usage or costs, (e.g. roaming voice and data).

Mobile Application Management

These features allow the business to manage application updates, and control or bar access to specific applications.

In summary, understanding which devices your employees use or plan to use, and establishing how these devices are utilised, is critical to deploying a successful BYoD strategy. Without this understanding, businesses risk investing in the wrong MDM solutions, and creating new security risks, employee dissatisfaction, and excess costs.

To be successful, we recommend that organisations develop a joined-up strategy for Mobile Device Lifecycle Management that brings together the Finance, IT, Procurement and HR departments, so that the business as a whole can identify the key risks, challenges, and benefits of BYoD for your organisation.

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