Mobile Device Management in the BYOD World

From December edition of Windows IT Pro magazine by B.K. Winstead

How important is mobile device management to your business? We've gone beyond the days when organizations could simply standardize on a single device, or even platform, such as BlackBerry, and manage everything the same. It's not even just iPhone or Android smartphones anymore; the iPad has launched the tablet space in earnest. The BYOD - Bring Your Own Device world has taken over.

I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. If you can increase employee satisfaction and effectiveness by letting them use the mobile devices they love best, it seems like an easy win—provided your IT department is prepared to manage the variety of devices such a situation brings. Because most devices these days can be managed through Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol, IT shops at least have an avenue of control.

In a recent non-scientific Instant Poll on the Exchange & Outlook page of, I posed the question, "How concerned are you about the security (both physical—loss or damage—and malware) of mobile devices your organization supports?" Here are the results:

  • 35% Very concerned
  • 47% Somewhat concerned
  • 12% Somewhat unconcerned
  • 6% Not at all concerned

Clearly, mobile device security is on the mind of the majority of IT pros out there. The next logical question is: What are you doing to protect those devices and your networks?

In fact, according to Paul DePond, president and founder of mobile device management (MDM) vendor Notify Technology, this is the number one topic around mobility that's being discussed in companies that aren't standardized on BlackBerry. As DePond said, when it comes to MDM, companies come in three flavors: "Those who needed it yesterday, those who need it now, and those who are going to get to it."

MDM isn't just about guarding against malware entering your network and the careless employee who drops his smartphone in the toilet (and then probably reports it as lost or stolen to avoid embarrassment). You also have to be aware that employees have the capability to carry around vast amounts of corporate data in their pockets. You need to be able to apply corporate policies to data on those devices just as you would on a desktop PC—particularly if you're in a highly regulated industry.

"Remember when we called them rogue devices?" Julie Palen said. Palen is the senior vice president of MDM for Tangoe. "Now there's more rogue devices than there are managed devices, and those rogue devices are coming from all levels of the organization." When it comes to understanding the size of the problem, Palen said, "Probably 25 percent of companies really get it, and 75 percent are going to get it. We see an awful lot of companies planning and figuring it out."

Tangoe and Notify Technology are just two of the many companies offering MDM solutions these days. Larger companies are going to find more benefits from investing in a third-party solution for MDM than will smaller organizations. But certainly almost every organization by this point should be working on their strategy for this difficult topic. Mobile device proliferation continues to grow. And as Palen said, "As you start to hear more stories about companies and their challenges, you're going to have other companies say, wait, I've got to figure this out while it's a 300 device problem, before it's a 13,000 device problem."

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