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Mobile Device Management in a Bring Your Own Device Environment

By Paul Fitzgerald for America's Backbone Weekly

If your business has or is considering a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, then there are things you should know about the challenges of managing a potentially wide range of privately owned devices. Mobile Device Management (MDM) software is the most effective solution for providing the overarching management of a Smartphone and Tablet network. In this article, we'll discuss the unique technical challenge of supporting a BYOD network while highlighting the advantages of MDM.

BYOD Challenges

If you've decided that the benefits of BYOD are worth it, how do you go about managing your enterprise? The most challenging aspect of BYOD comes from supporting a diverse range of devices. In theory, your IT team is faced with the challenge of providing support for several different mobile products across differing operating systems. This creates the need for an evolving knowledge of all these different products, including hardware specifics and the management of security, corporate applications and operating system updates, all of which can result in high training costs and possibly even the need for additional support staff. The solution to this problem can be found with MDM software.

MDM Software

MDM software provides the ideal solution to the challenges of BYOD. A good software platform can be installed on different devices across different operating systems. It doesn't matter whether your employees are using Samsung Galaxy phones or the Google Pixel. They're different versions of Android but MDM products work with all of them. This means your IT team can manage critical aspects of your mobile device network from a single dashboard. The New York Life Insurance Company is an example of a business that has employed MDM software for its increasingly BYOD-centered enterprise. They use MobileIron's MDM system to manage a mixture of company-owned and employee-owned devices. The MobileIron solution lets them feel secure about managing client data securely across a broad range of devices.

MDM software allows you to set parameters on mobile device use. It can enforce lockdown when devices aren't in use, and it can force your employees to use strong passwords for reactivation, ensuring that lost or stolen devices are difficult to access. Good MDM software can also let you assign permissions for corporate data access, so that only approved personnel are granted access to certain portals. It also gives you the ability to wipe data from lost or stolen devices, or those belonging to former employees. For example, a small investment firm will manage dozens if not hundreds of client portfolios that include sensitive financial data. MDM software can ensure that only certain employees have access to that data, and that any devices that provide access to that data are protected with strong passwords. And the beauty of it all is that MDM software controlled from a single platform.

Once the software is installed on your employee's devices (either by you, your IT department or through consultation with the vendor), that's all your IT team needs to worry about in terms of device management. Your staff will still be responsible for the physical maintenance of their devices and for their individual operating system updates. Your IT staff can then simply update or make changes to the MDM software whenever it's needed, usually including ongoing support from the vendor.

There are a lot of good options when it comes to choosing an MDM platform. IBM has turned heads recently with its release of the MaaS360 platform. It can be installed on all popular devices and operating systems, and runs anywhere from $3 to $9.75 per month per device, depending on the package that you choose. In addition to standard security features like password management, it allows you to manage your corporate apps from within the platform, including those that are operating system specific. So, for example, if you want to use a popular Android app, you can do so by running it in the MaaS360 application wrapper.

Construction Specialties, a manufacturer and seller of architectural products from New Jersey, adopted MaaS360 as a means of managing a plethora of mobile devices and because it's compatible with other enterprise software, in their case Salesforce CRM (a Customer Relationship Management platform). They were also drawn because it can be set up quickly, and devices can be enrolled in under five minutes. MaaS360 is popular across a number of industries.

There are plenty of other software options available out there. The key to choosing the right one is to do your research. First, you need to understand the specific needs of your business, including the range of devices you need covered and the software you need to run. You also need to know how much you can afford so you can find a product that fits within your budget. A Google search will reveal a wide range of products along with reviews. You can also talk to vendors directly to find out exactly what their MDM software packages are capable of, and what they'll cost. In the end your employees will get to use the devices they want and you'll get the peace of mind that comes with knowing those devices are being managed securely.

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