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Tips for MDM in the Enterprise

January 21, 2015

There have been several reports out over the past year indicating that at the end of 2014 there were somewhere in the neighborhood of about seven billion mobile subscribers around the world. This number includes all mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. In any event, this is an interesting number since at the end of 2013 the population count was at about 7.181 billion people.

According to my calculations, that means that about 97.48 percent of the world’s population has a mobile subscription. Other studies conducted throughout the year show that a lot of people have multiple subscriptions, which makes sense since they have multiple devices, so the above number is closer to 4.5 billion reported mobile users.

As the technology that goes into these mobile devices improves, we can expect the explosive popularity of mobile devices and apps to also continue to grow. This does offer a tremendous opportunity for any enterprise to become a “Mobile First” organization. As enterprises view mobility as the most important business enabling technology - we are witnessing less dependency on PCs and more on the go workforces.

Mobile First organizations understand that the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is here to stay and is fueled by users who expect total flexibility in managing their professional and personal business wherever they are, on their device of choice. However, the ability to securely and cost-effectively enable BYOD presents a significant challenge for even the most forward-thinking companies.

This leads to interesting concerns for IT departments. Several of my past lives included running IT departments and managing networks. It was hard enough in those days to keep everything secure and up-to-date, when you add the various mobile devices that now regularly connect to corporate data, let’s just say that I’m glad I don’t do that anymore.

Needless to say, managing these devices is of paramount importance. Mobile device management (MDM) is an industry term for the administration of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. MDM is usually implemented with the use of a third party product that has management features for particular vendors of mobile devices.

MDM functionality can include over-the-air distribution of applications, data and configuration settings for all types of mobile devices, including mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, ruggedized mobile computers, mobile printers, mobile POS and similar devices. A smart move is for your organization to have a solid mobile strategy leveraged on MDM. Listed below is a couple of ideas to keep in mind when developing a MDM strategy.

One thing that everyone always takes for granted is something that restricts access to mobile devices. I am referring, or course to a strong password. It is a wise move to require that mobile device passcodes meet or even exceed certain guidelines for length and complexity. In addition consider strict retry and timeout parameters. IT administrators have been talking about this since laptops were taken on the road.

The fact that an enterprise is allowing BYOD does not automatically mean that every device and application needs to be mobilized. An enterprise is made up of various employees with different roles and responsibilities. The level of mobility and access to information as well as applications should be structured accordingly and therefore should be aligned with employee’s needs.

You should never go mobile just to go mobile. Mobility and MDM implementations need to be implemented with a purpose while supporting necessary management and operational functions. All of this needs to be accomplished while guarding against threats. Going mobile offers more points of entry through various devices that can be used to access corporate data, therefore a secure device is the best way to protect against cyber-attacks.

Keep in mind that mobile device management is a tool. The IT department should study and analyze a variety of options, just as it would any application, to ensure that it will fit with the overall IT management strategy. Elements such as initial configuration and user support should be automated as much as possible to avoid overloading help desk and other IT support personnel. When properly implemented, MDM should reduce costs as well as reduce workloads.

I mentioned that part of the MDM functionality includes being able to install and update apps on mobile devices, the opposite is also true. MDM can be used to remotely erase or “kill” a mobile device if it is lost or stolen. There are a couple of important factors to keep in mind if you decide to implement such a policy.

On the one hand, if an employee mislays a device, you do not want to kill it before giving the person a chance to try and find it. On the other hand, if you wait too long to Implement the kill switch, you run the risk of someone being able to access the device and, in turn, your corporate data. Now if you had a third hand and used it to install a strong password or other security feature, then you would have more time in which to make a decision.

These are just a few tips, or ideas to keep in mind when you consider MDM for your IT department. Understanding how mobile devices will be used in the workforce and what type of access they will require to corporate data and applications is the first step toward the implementation of a flexible yet very secure environment.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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