A closer look at Mobile Device Management

The rapid adoption of smartphones across the globe has lead to an increase in demand from employees who want to use their own devices in the workplace – a trend which is driving the need for mobile device management (MDM).

MDM is a process that gives IT staff within a business control and visibility over all the mobile devices being used within the enterprise. It's implemented to secure, monitor, manage and support every single mobile, tablet or laptop that is deployed.

As well as providing over-the-air distribution of applications, data and configuration settings, it also password protects devices and has the ability to wipe them remotely should they be lost or stolen.

In fact, as with the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, which sees more workers turning to their personal devices to complete tasks in the workplace, MDM is becoming more and more widespread.

Research firm Gartner has predicted that 65 per cent of enterprises will adopt a MDM solution over the next five years. According to a recent report by Infonetics Research this rapid growth will see the MDM market top $7bn by 2015.

Why is MDM so important?

Using mobiles at work represents undeniable advantages, helping employees stay connected anytime, anywhere. But as more workers turn to their handsets for both personal and business use, companies are adopting various MDM strategies to ensure private data doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

Security is one of the biggest concerns expressed by IT professionals, who believe smartphones pose a great threat when it comes to protecting sensitive data and controlling the spread of malicious content.

Paul McClanahan, research analyst at the Boston Research Group, said: "IT professionals see many of the same security risks in mobile devices such as smartphones...Device mobility, wireless access, personal applications and the high risk of lost or stolen handhelds creates a need for added defences."

With all this mobile movement going on your business will be looking for a unified way to secure and support various devices across multiple operating systems, and that's where MDM comes in to force.

How does MDM work?

It all starts when an MDM application is loaded onto a new device – a process which can be done in a number of different ways. Some users will receive a text message from their IT department and be asked to click a URL link to the MDM server, which will then redirect them to an app store to download the application.

Once in place the app will monitor all the activity that occurs on a device to determine any if any changes need to be made to the settings. By implementing various security features it ensures the device stays compliant with company policy and data protection.

MDM also gives an organisation the ability to wirelessly control devices when required, whether it's to add or disable features, back up data or react to suspicious activity that maybe taking place on it.

Other features commonly found in MDM solutions include the ability to:

  • Scan outside apps to block users from inadvertently installing malware.
  • Block a user's access to certain data or application based on their location and position within the company.
  • Generate ongoing reports to alert businesses if a user hasn't signed in for a few days.
  • Prevent certain types of sensitive data from being emailed outside the company via a mobile device.
  • Track voice minutes, long-distance charges, roaming and data fees, as well as shut off access once a user goes over their allowance.

Downsides of MDM

MDM is a process that is constantly being refined to ensure all devices being used within an enterprise are kept as secure as possible.

However, it's important to highlight that there are some downfalls of MDM, which employees may not be aware of. For instance, if a user has already hooked up their personal device to the company network this will instantly hold important corporate data, and should it be lost or stolen its likely personal data will also be lost when the business data is wiped.

That is, unless you have a BlackBerry handset, such as the BlackBerry Z10, which features the intuitive BlackBerry Balance function. 'Splitting' your device in two, BlackBerry Balance keeps your work and home life separate, and should the business side need wiping it can be done without any detriment to the personal bit.

Organisations will also have the ability to constantly monitor users' devices, and in some cases they may not approve what users are doing. As part of their security policy companies can dictate to users what they can and can't do, which may not please everyone.

What next for MDM?

There is no doubt that MDM is an effective solution which can help a business keep track of all the devices being used, and one that should be considered by companies of all shapes and sizes. Aside from some drawbacks, allowing staff to use the device of their choice may not only help boost employee morale and productivity, but it could also save your business on acquisition costs.

With the BYOD movement quickly gaining momentum in the workplace the popularity and widespread adoption of MDM is likely to increase at a similar rate, which will see it become commonplace in enterprises across the globe sooner rather than later.