A 101 guide to mobile device management

Extending beyond the traditional company network, mobile connectivity has become an extension of doing business and IT staff need to not just rethink how existing activities, operations, and business models can fit into mobile constructs, but rethink how mobility can fundamentally transform the business itself.

MDM solution components

A mobile device management (MDM) solution provides similar features that you would expect a systems management solution would use to manage PCs. However, mobile devices are not network-connected in the same manner as PCs, so a solution for mobile device management must rethink communications.

Mobile devices have the capabilities to communicate with each other in much more accessible and pervasive ways, and a good solution can harness this by utilizing diverse communication methods, such as communicating via the Internet.

The basic components of a mobile device management solution would consist of a server and an agent which would communicate with each other in order to complete commands and tasks. This allows the solution to gather inventory from the device, deploy apps, and set restrictions on the device greatly increasing the solutions’ security capabilities.

Things to take into consideration

If you’re thinking of taking advantage of a dedicated MDM solution or deploying MDM capabilities as part of a wider Unified Endpoint Management approach, there are a few things you need to take into consideration:

A good MDM solution must be accessible, which typically means it’s a cloud-based solution. This can reduce a lot of network and infrastructure issues that could occur with an on-premise solution. If your company has a footprint outside the main office, accessing the MDM solution from anywhere is of paramount importance.

It needs to be scalable and encompass the total number of devices that would be interacting with your company data and therefore need to be managed. It’s likely that some company staff may use personal devices for business as well as those issued by your organization. In the age of BYOD, it can be challenging to monitor every device that accesses your organization’s network. The feature set for a good MDM solution needs to be able to take into account multiple devices within its actions and not just be designed for a single-device focus.

Most importantly, it needs to be secure. From a platform perspective, all of your data needs to be encrypted both at rest and in transit. At the device level, restrictions should be available as part of the feature set so that lost or stolen devices can be handled effectively. Enforcement of policies that can occur perpetually is desired (as opposed to setting restrictions at a single instance).

While some MDM providers deliver on-premise solutions that require you to install and set them up, others provide cloud-based solutions that can be accessible from anywhere. That leaves just the enrolment of devices to complete before your mobile devices can be managed. Personal devices will need users to enroll their devices while company-owned devices could be managed through their respective business channels (e.g., Apple DEP, Android for Work, etc.).

What should you consider when choosing a mobile device management solution?

Identify your goals and requirements first. How will you use mobile devices within the work environment in the near term and in the future? Will you allow personal devices to be used, only provide company-issued devices to access company data, or have a mixture of both?

Ensure that all the stakeholders are on the same page. This means that IT, HR, executive leadership and even regular employees need to weigh in on the policies you will implement regarding mobile device management.

Try before you buy! Most MDM providers offer a free trial for their solution, so be sure to kick the tires and use its features to see if it meets your needs.

A solid MDM strategy is one that encompasses both the scope and the limitations of your company. Be sure to understand where the company can best utilize mobile devices to increase productivity and limit downtime.

With more and more employees bringing their own personal devices into a work environment, the attack surface for threats exploiting vulnerabilities in mobile devices is growing rapidly. Even vulnerabilities in consumer messaging apps such as WhatsApp are now becoming a concern for enterprises of all sizes, and with cybercriminals increasingly targeting human vulnerabilities, it is of paramount importance to secure the devices they are using.

You cannot secure what you don’t know about, which is why gaining visibility over all mobile devices interacting with your network through MDM is so crucial. With these tips, your business can implement this vital security step effectively and comprehensively.

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