As the market shrinks, get the skinny on EMM tools and vendors

Using EMM tools to secure mobile devices and give users access to data is a fact of life for many IT admins today, but so is market consolidation.

Companies adopt enterprise mobile management tools at different rates: Some businesses have had MDM since the consumerization trend struck their offices, while other companies are just getting ready to dip their toes in the EMM waters.

Whether you fall into the latter camp or the former -- or somewhere in between -- it's never a bad time to get up to speed on the basics of enterprise mobility management (EMM). Because the technologies and the market evolve so quickly, keeping up with what tools are available and which vendors offer them can be daunting. Take a look at this cheat sheet to get the basics.

What's EMM?

EMM is a broad term that encompasses various approaches to enabling and securing employees' use of personal or corporate mobile devices for work. Mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM) and mobile information management all fall under the umbrella of EMM tools.

In the beginning of the consumerization movement, when workers started using their personal devices for work, many companies looked to MDM tools to help secure devices. Now that many IT departments have realized managing data and enabling access are more important than locking down devices, having a comprehensive tool or suite of tools has become more popular. It's easier, and usually more cost-effective, to buy a suite of EMM tools from one vendor than it is to cherry-pick an MDM tool from one provider and a MAM product from somewhere else. When all your enterprise mobile management tools come from the same vendor, it also generally provides better integration, which makes managing the suite of products easier.

But selecting one vendor is easier said than done these days. As the EMM market matures, it's also consolidating. Where there were once a plethora of small, startup EMM vendors, there are now very few providers that stand alone. IBM bought Fiberlink, Oracle bought Bitzer Mobile, VMware bought AirWatch, and experts agree that market consolidation will continue.

How to protect against vendor buyout

If you're worried about your EMM vendor being acquired, you're not alone. When a small company is bought up by a bigger one, it's not always clear what that means for the startup's customers. For example, if your enterprise mobile management vendor is bought by a big company whose other products you don't use, will the EMM tools you signed on for still work for your environment? And how much will they cost? By the time all the details of an acquisition shake out, it can be lights out for your company's mission-critical management tools.

Before your EMM provider is acquired, take some proactive steps to protect your mobile initiative. Have frequent meetings with your current EMM vendor to keep a finger on the pulse of that company, and make sure your contract with your EMM vendor specifies what will happen in the event of an acquisition.

Additionally, it's a good idea to have a backup plan. Pick a second vendor and maintain a relationship with that provider. Even when there isn't an acquisition on the horizon, you may want to part ways with your EMM provider for other reasons. Business needs may change or you might initially choose EMM tools that aren't right for your company. In any situation, it's important to understand users' needs and your company's security policies, and then align your EMM tools with those standards.

This was first published in February 2014

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