We previously looked at what exactly mobile device management (MDM) is and the types of solutions available to organisations. In part two we dive deeper into MDM including how MDM can help support mobile devices, and also the issues faced by organisations in relation to MDM.
With mobile devices, organisations can provide what is known as “over the air” support. This basically means that the IT Support staff can push updates, notifications, software, data or even lock/wipe data from the device wirelessly and remotely, sometimes without any evidence on the devices screen.
- Deployment – the ability to push updates and applications to the mobile device remotely.
- Security – wiping, locking or shutting down the mobile device remotely should it be lost, stolen or no longer in use.
- General Support – the ability to support the mobile device remotely should the user need any help with the device or if it encounters any problems.
- Configuration – the ability to configure and change settings on the mobile device remotely. Also possible to do so with reduced disruption and visibility to the end user.
“Over the air” support can also be provided silently with the end user having no knowledge of IT remotely connecting to their machine. This feature depends on whether the MDM solution provides such a service, but the majority of them do. It is also worth noting that not all issues with mobile devices will be fixable using this method. Some issues may require IT Support to physically have the device in front of them to fix certain issues.
Whilst useful for tablets and phones, this method of support is especially useful for updating the software or drivers on mobile printers, scanners and POS devices. The updates can be pushed remotely to the device with minimal disruption to users or its services, as long as it is connected to the network.
Early on in the implementation phase, there needs to be a decision on whether or not the organisation is going to allow users to bring their own smartphone or tablets in for work use. If they do allow a BYOD policy, then the users mobile device can connect to certain points within the internal network, but the device still needs to be managed.
This is possible in a number of ways, with the simplest option being naming convention. If the organisation names all of their mobile devices with the same naming convention, then it is obvious when a BYOD device is connecting to the network as it will show up as ‘Bob’s iPad’ rather than the company standard naming convention. Management of BYOD devices is minimal, the only thing that needs to be monitored is the data accessed on the internal networks, or any company ‘apps’ that may have been developed. Anything else is at the users own risk.
There are a number of issues that an organisation faces if they want to implement mobile devices within the organisation. They need to have the personnel and solution in place to effectively manage the mobile devices and they also need to standardise the type of mobile device that they allow. Standardisation is important for effective support from the IT department, as they will become reasonably specialist in the hardware, rather than having multiple systems and not really knowing how to fix them.
They are mobile devices; they are going to wander around different locations. Keeping a track of where the devices are will be a big challenge, as users may end up taking their tablet home with them. Loosing such small devices is also a very real threat, both within the organisation (bottom of someone’s drawer) or externally (on the train). Ensuring that any sensitive data or applications can be wiped remotely is a must.
Another issue facing mobile devices is the short lifecycle. Tablets and phones currently have a lifecycle of about two years before the operating system and applications become unusable. A process needs to be in place to ensure that mobile devices have a lifecycle process, so that a refresh is within the impending hardware budget. POS, scanners and printers may have a slightly longer lifecycle, but they still require updating. Unfortunately you can’t add memory, additional hard disk space or updated graphics on tablets yet, so once they start to slow down there’s nothing an organisation can do to improve performance.
— David Foxen (@SAMBeastDavid) September 18, 2014
Account details are another issue. The organisation needs to identify what type of account will be registered to the device, whether that’s based on the user, generic company account, departmental account or even a cost centre account. If an organisation allows user accounts to be added to the device, then they need to ensure that any applications purchased are work related (it is a work device after all) and that they are procured through the correct procurement process and not via the users credit card.
Finally, the fragile nature of mobile devices means that breakages are commonplace. Ensure that a process is in place should a device become terminally broken (smashed or water damaged), or if the device has a cracked screen or some other fault.
Mobile devices are going to increase in numbers over the next few years. Some technology circles are even suggesting that mobile devices may replace laptops and desktops in the future, should they become powerful enough. Either way, MDM should be managed hand-in-hand with ITAM, with the same principles and similar processes.
If you would like to know more about MDM, or want us to cover certain aspects of MDM in the future, please contact me here. Look out for our next article about MDM and how it has an impact on ITAM.