Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets in the workplace have skyrocketed in recent years. This has created major challenges for organizations in securely managing and monitoring devices employees use to access company data and applications. Mobile device management (MDM) has emerged as the solution to enable centralized visibility and control over mobile devices in an enterprise environment.
This guide provides an in-depth overview of mobile device management, its capabilities, benefits, best practices for deployment, and future trends.
Table of Contents
What is Mobile Device Management?
Mobile device management (MDM) refers to software solutions designed specifically for managing and securing mobile devices like cell phones, smartphones, and tablets in a business context. MDM enables information technology departments to monitor, manage, and secure mobile devices across an organization from a central console.
Key capabilities provided by MDM platforms include:
- Enrolling devices into management
- Configuring device settings and policies
- Applying security controls like passcodes
- Managing apps and content
- Automating device inventories
- Enforcing data loss prevention policies
- Remotely locking or wiping lost devices
- Viewing device status and activity reports
MDM solutions support company-owned devices and BYOD (bring your own device) scenarios. This allows IT oversight while still enabling employee flexibility.
Mobile device management platforms provide a robust set of capabilities for centrally managing and securing mobile devices, including:
- Device enrollment – When a new device joins the MDM system, IT can fully configure it remotely without user intervention. This includes installing device profiles for settings, configuring email, VPN, WiFi authentication, and any apps. Bulk enrollment modes allow IT to roll out large fleets of devices rapidly.
- Policy enforcement – MDM allows IT to remotely configure and enforce a wide array of device policies, including password complexity rules, encryption standards, blacklisting/whitelisting applications, disabling features like cameras or screen captures, enforcing idle timeouts, and more. These apply device-wide.
- Application management – MDM enables enterprise app distribution, managing app permissions, blacklisting malicious or unapproved apps, whitelisting required apps, and configuring access to internal apps and data repositories based on role.
- Asset tracking – MDM solutions provide inventory reporting capabilities to track all attributes of company-owned mobile hardware assets, including device model, operating system, assigned user, physical location, apps installed, and more. This improves IT visibility and utilization.
- Access control – With MDM, IT can determine how users or user groups can access, share, or edit documents and apps on mobile devices. This includes restrictions like disabling copy/paste or blocking transfers to unsecured channels.
- Remote actions – MDM allows IT to remotely lock or fully wipe the device to secure any data if a managed device is lost, stolen, or out of compliance. Advanced geolocation tracking can also help recover lost devices.
- Monitoring – MDM platforms generate usage reports, monitor device health metrics, diagnose battery drain or app crash issues, and send alerts when problems arise. This helps IT maintain the mobile fleet.
- Security – MDM is critical for enforcing comprehensive mobile security, including passcodes, encryption of data-at-rest and in transit, VPN policies, app whitelisting, and more. MDM is part of the broader Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) toolkit.
- Compliance – MDM provides audit trails of device changes and access logs to help organizations adhere to regulatory compliance standards like HIPAA, PCI DSS, and various data privacy regulations.
Benefits for Organizations
Implementing a mobile device management solution offers many significant benefits:
- Increased productivity by securely providing access to email, apps, and content so mobile workers can collaborate from anywhere. This supports a modern digital workforce.
- Reduced operational and support costs by automating mundane device management tasks like configuring devices, updating apps, and enforcing policies at scale. This allows IT to focus on more strategic efforts.
- Improved end-user privacy and protections by mandating device-level passwords, encryption, and disabling ports/features that could expose data.
- Tighter, centralized standardization of mobile security configurations instead of a fragmented approach relying on users to secure devices.
- Streamlined regulatory compliance by providing comprehensive activity logging, access controls, and automation needed for standards like HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR.
- Improved IT asset tracking, utilization analytics, and life cycle management for company-owned mobile devices. This optimizes the hardware investment.
- Enhanced operational visibility into overall mobile fleet health, performance, and usage trends. IT gains insights to address issues proactively.
Deploying Mobile Device Management Solutions
When strategizing the deployment of a mobile device management solution, key considerations include the following:
- Evaluating leading MDM solutions from vendors like VMware Workspace ONE, Microsoft Intune, ManageEngine, BlackBerry UEM, and others based on needs.
- Comparing cloud-hosted MDM vs on-premises solutions. Cloud offers lower administration, while on-premises allows localized control.
- Ensuring support for all mobile platforms across the organization, like iOS, Android, Windows, and niche OSes.
- Integrating the MDM instance with existing directories like Active Directory for automated user/device syncing and group policy alignment.
- Planning a phased rollout of MDM enrollment, policies, and restrictions to end users. Gradually easing restrictions generally results in better adoption.
- Developing training programs, guides, and help desk resources for device enrollment and ongoing MDM usage questions.
- Creating separate device configuration profiles and policy standards for BYOD vs company devices.
- Selecting MDM administrators and access tiers for help desk, support, compliance auditors, and executives.
Best Practices for Effective Mobile Device Management
Proven best practices for driving maximum impact and return on investment from mobile device management include:
- Striking the right balance between security policies and keeping end users satisfied with their device experience. Overly restrictive policies lead to shadow IT and lack of adoption.
- Prioritizing consistent enforcement of the most important baseline configurations like device passwords, encryption, VPN usage, and key applications.
- Leveraging automation for device enrollment, compliance reporting, and app deployments to ease the administrative overhead of routine MDM tasks.
- Starting with a pilot MDM project and developing staged rollout plans for introducing new policies. Regularly audit and reevaluate existing policies.
- Ensuring adequate redundancy for critical infrastructure supporting MDM like servers, databases, and networks to maintain 24/7 availability.
- Maintaining all mobile devices and the MDM platform software updated with the latest OS and app versions for optimal security and performance.
Mobile device management will evolve into more intelligent, integrated, and automated solutions. It will converge with identity and access management, productivity tools, and business apps into unified platforms that secure and empower enterprise mobility.
Organizations that invest in mobility management today will be well-positioned to embrace the future needs of a digital-first workforce across an expanding range of devices.
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