Mobile device management system planning and policies

Planning a mobile device management system is a big task, but outlining policies, choosing features and selecting platforms before implementing an MDM program ensure its success.

Once you are ready to start evaluating a mobile device management system, outline security, data protection, access

control and acceptable-use policies.

While these policies don’t have to be detailed, you should have a clear understanding of the kinds of features you expect, such as full device encryption, data vaulting and so on. Also consider the mobile device management system functions and reporting capabilities you expect. If your current asset management and configuration management tools meet your needs, they can be a guide for the features you want from a mobile device management system.

Next, determine which platforms that IT will support. The major mobile device offerings are Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry and Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

All OSes may support your email and collaboration applications, but a smaller number may offer the right apps for your enterprise applications. Consider whether the additional cost of supporting an OS with limited business functionality is worth the marginal benefit. Also consider how well the mobile device management system you may choose support different OSes. If an OS is not in high demand, does not support important business apps and lacks comprehensive support in an otherwise promising management system, you may choose to not support that platform. Use your policy and management-based requirements and your supported platform list to create a feature-by-platform matrix. This framework can organize the results of your product evaluations. Some features and platforms are more important than others, so weigh their relative importance.

Evaluate the top-ranking product or products in limited tests. This process gives you an opportunity to assess issues with deploying server components, configuring MDM software, deploying agents, and performing basic operations, such as remotely configuring devices, performing backups on devices and generating operational reports.

Mobile devices are now a part of enterprise infrastructure and a mobile device management system can provide the asset, configuration and security management functionality they require.

Mobile device management system drawbacks

For employers, a bring your own device (BYOD) policy can be advantageous because the company can consolidate hardware and reap some savings. For employees, using their own devices enables an easy shift between work and personal tasks.

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But two potential problems can undermine these advantages. If the policy and mobile device management system disrupt how employees use their devices, users will likely resist. If applications used for personal purposes do not work with full disk encryption, for example, employees will be forced to choose between using those apps and having access to enterprise systems. A second problem arises when policies appear overreaching. For example, employees may understand the need to register their devices but they may also hesitate to grant access to personal data or to allow an administrator to remotely disable device features, such as a camera or GPS.

To prevent user revolt to BYOD policy, IT departments should limit restrictions on employee-owned devices to those needed to protect business assets and clearly describe the justification for these limitations. If possible, use a tiered approach: Allow access to public and sensitive data with minimal restrictions, but require more stringent controls only for devices accessing confidential and private information or working with valuable intellectual property.

About the Author

Dan Sullivan, M.Sc., is an author, systems architect, and consultant with more than 20 years of IT experience with engagements in advanced analytics, systems architecture, database design, enterprise security and business intelligence

This was first published in June 2012

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