The BYOD Challenge: Mobile Device Management and Beyond
When the first iPhones appeared in workplaces, enterprise IT professionals were confronted with a dual problem: Not only were these new, untested mobile devices connecting to enterprise networks and resources, they were also owned by employees — and thus beyond the control of IT.
According to ZDNet, the subsequent emergence of Android devices and their dizzying assortment of manufacturers, operating systems and security features only compounded this challenge. Androids quickly gained a reputation as magnets for cyberattackers eager to exploit vulnerabilities in the mobile OS and a glacial security patch process.
From this cauldron of disruption emerged mobile device management (MDM), a set of tools, practices and policies designed for enterprise IT pros to provide some levels of security and control in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) era.
The Mobile Device Management Approach
The premise behind MDM is to provide security and support at the device level while enabling greater productivity for mobile employees. MDM platforms allow enterprise IT to remotely deploy, secure, monitor and manage employee mobile devices.
Enterprise IT pros can’t do much about employees losing their phones in a bar during happy hour, but they can use MDM security controls to remotely lock or even wipe data from a device that has been lost or stolen. While employees are the weakest security link in enterprise security, securing and controlling their mobile devices provides the next best thing for IT pros trying to protect an organization’s data and other digital assets.
As crucial as MDM is to enterprises — particularly to those with a large number of mobile devices accessing network resources — it isn’t a mobile panacea. Employees can be resentful that MDM restricts how they use their own devices, forcing them to employ burdensome passwords, encryption and authentication that inhibit their ability to get things done. From there it’s just a short step to rogue IT.
Further, due to the wide variety of smartphones and tablets used by employees, it’s imperative for enterprises to choose an MDM platform that supports multiple devices.
Enter Mobile Application Management
To augment their MDM efforts, many IT departments also use mobile application management (MAM). Instead of focusing on the device, this method applies security and control at the enterprise application level. MAM offers more precise control, allowing IT to manage and secure personal devices as well as applications that were internally built for business use on company devices.
For enterprises lacking internally built apps, MAM may not be necessary. However, larger enterprises with robust mobile development programs and a sizable number of mobile apps can use MAM to control access to certain enterprise apps, data or back-end resources and better manage app life cycle through automatic updates. MAM’s precision, however, comes with a trade-off: Developers must write code for each MAM project.
As enterprises of all sizes continue to embrace BYOD, IT pros need tools that allow them to secure digital assets from mobile devices and applications without impairing employee productivity. MDM is more costly and comprehensive, while MAM is more affordable and refined. IT and business decision-makers must determine whether MDM, MAM or a combination of the two is best for their enterprise’s mobile initiatives and needs.