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Five MDM products for managing mobile devices in corporate environments

When users first came in to companies with smartphones and tablets, managing the devices was difficult. Nowadays there are more advanced MDM products to help admins

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get a handle on the situation.

Many vendors offer mobile device management (MDM) products, and though they all serve the same purpose -- to give IT some degree of control over smartphones and tablets that access corporate assets -- they aren't all the same. For an overview of some of these features and differences, check out these five MDM products:

More on MDM products

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Mobile device management strategy for diverse mobile devices

Guide to mobile device management software

Network management tools from Cisco offer admins MDM for BYOD

Novell ZENworks Mobile Management

ZENworks Mobile Management (ZMM) supports multiple mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows mobile OSes, BlackBerry, Symbian and any device that can link with Exchange ActiveSync. With ZMM, administrators can manage corporate devices as well as users' personal devices. On the latter, ZMM can wipe data selectively.

Features of ZMM include an enterprise app store, customizable security settings, such as password enforcement, encryption and device tracking, as well as inventory and asset management. ZMM can also send alerts and notifications to IT, and it offers automatic enrollment using ActiveSync.

The product works well, but in a market where many players have been around for years, it won’t be easy for Novell to establish a good reputation. And for customers that don't already use Novell products, ZMM may have come out too late. But businesses that use the Novell ZENworks Desktop Management suite now will find ZMM is a welcome addition, even though the two don't integrate yet.

Airwatch Mobile Device Management

Airwatch offers a range of MDM products that help administrators managing every aspect of mobile devices in their organization. Airwatch Mobile Device Management lets admins enroll devices and configure and update settings. It also offers security for the devices, as well as remote lock and wipe. Airwatch Mobile Device Management works with all the mobile platforms that IT needs it to.

For administrators who want to distribute corporate applications as well, Airwatch offers Mobile Application Management. Mobile Content Management helps secure sensitive documents that users work on from their devices, and Mobile Email Management connects users to corporate email in a way that allows IT to centrally manage it.

One of the strong points of the product is the focus on security; Airwatch Mobile Device Management offers encryption between devices, the enterprise servers and cloud service that the product uses. It also offers Web-based and agent-based enrollment. But Airwatch Mobile Device Management doesn't let IT customize the management interface, and it offers limited support for alternate service providers, which some companies use to access custom applications.

Zenprise MobileManager

Zenprise MobileManager helps administrators manage the complete mobile device lifecycle within an organization using one integrated product. MobileManager supports the same mobile platforms as ZMM and Airwatch Mobile Device Manager, but it stands out because it offers features to deploy, configure, provision, secure and decommission devices.

Zenprise also has Zenprise Mobile DLP (that's Data Leakage Protection) to protect corporate data from leaks. It creates a secure content container on the device that IT can manage and synchronize with back-end applications. It also offers advanced features, such as policies to wipe the container after a set number of failed login attempts, or if a user jailbreaks his device.

Since Zenprise started in 2003, it has focused on MDM: The company specializes in MDM and offers options that aren't available in other MDM products yet, such as the ability to blacklist applications in iOS and Android. MobileManager gives IT one integrated product that manages many different facets of enterprise mobility.

MobileIron Mobile Device Management

MobileIron offers a range of MDM products to help administrators manage mobile devices, including Device Management, Mobile Device Security, a BYOD product, an enterprise mobility product, Wireless Expense Management and Mobile App Management for all the common mobile platforms. Such a range of MDM products allows buyers to purchase only the functionality they really need, but it also makes it difficult for customers to find out what exactly they would need to manage mobile devices in their environment.

MobileIron has business partnerships with companies all over the world, which allows MobileIron to make sure that the products work in multiple different environments and are not focused for one particular geographical region. MobileIron also offers products for complete mobile device lifecycle management, but that could be a disadvantage for some IT environments because admins will need more than just one product before they can implement a complete MDM system. Another disadvantage of MobileIron's MDM product is that it doesn't offer a way to separate corporate data and applications from personal data and applications.

Symantec Mobile Management

Symantec Mobile Management offers over-the-air inventory, reporting and software management. Like the other MDM products mentioned, it also allows administrators to centrally manage mobile device configuration and separate corporate data from personal data.

The biggest advantage of Symantec Mobile Management is that it integrates with other Symantec security products and goes beyond just managing mobile devices. But Symantec just acquired MDM vendor Odyssey Software earlier this year, so that integration is not complete yet. Still, Symantec is a well-established company, with a presence in countries all over the world, which makes it easy to get help implementing and supporting its products.

This was first published in October 2012

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