A proliferation of devices among the workforce has caused headaches as mobile managers struggle to keep up with various gadgets and gizmos while also making sure they are configured properly and up to date.
Some users may have a Pocket PC, others a smart phone, and still others could be using a BlackBerry or laptop. Keeping tabs on who is using what and when and meeting their needs is somewhat of a guessing game.
iAnywhere, a subsidiary of Sybase, hopes to make device management and security simpler with updates to its Afaria Frontline solution, which will be available Friday.
Afaria 5.4 has been expanded with a host of new functions, including enhanced support for Research In Motion Ltd.'s widely popular BlackBerry, full management and security support for Windows Mobile 5.0 devices, and other additions.
With Afaria, IT can manage BlackBerry devices from the same administrative console as other mobile devices; they can also be managed from a Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) console through Afaria's integration with Microsoft SMS.
Jack Gold, founder and president of J.Gold Associates in Northborough, Mass., said the Afaria updates come at a time when managers of large deployed bases of various devices crave a centralized management console to enforce device policies, instead of managing each type of device individually from different consoles.
"As more and more users come online, this becomes an issue," Gold said. "This gives a company the ability to implement a single policy for all users in the organization, and that's not a bad thing."
Adding management capabilities through SMS, he said, allows devices to be managed in a new way.
"What they've done here … is they built a link between SMS and all of the devices in the field that you couldn't manage with SMS before."
Shari Freeman, manager, software engineering and product management for Sybase iAnywhere, said administrators can now manage and track all mobile devices from a single console.
"This gives a consolidated view of all mobile devices," she said. "Mobile devices aren't really getting managed; this allows full and robust management capabilities."
The most significant update, Freeman said, is the new BlackBerry management components, which let companies deploy, install and repair software applications on BlackBerrys while also giving admins the ability to customize system management tasks and support business processes.
Managing a BlackBerry through Afaria can also protect lost or stolen devices by giving managers the ability to lock or remove data and applications from the device, enforce device settings, track software licenses and installations, and retrieve other data from the device.
Other device monitoring enhancements let admins monitor Windows Mobile 5.0 devices and automatically react to changes in the state of the device. Key files can be backed up when the battery level drops. Application installation and usage can be monitored and enforced. A log can also be created when confidential files on devices are written to external cards or sent to other devices. Afaria 5.4 also ensures that information is always available. It automatically replaces critical data on the device when necessary.
With its enhanced inventory manager, Afaria 5.4 can collect additional phone and connectivity information on devices, including phone number, IMEI, IMSI, mobile operator, current network and Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and IR configuration and status information. For laptops, scans can transmit inventory changes to the server, reducing communication time and costs.
Lastly, Afaria 5.4 has the permanent client identifier, which gives the ability to re-identity mobile devices even after a power failure, device hard reset, or the loss or reinstallation of the Afaria client. This keeps Afaria assignments and policies intact on the device.
"If the device is reset, it is brought back once it's connected again to the network," Freeman said. "It creates sort of a self-healing device."
According to Jack Gold, making device management a one-step process instead of several steps will be attractive to companies with large deployments.
"The bigger deployments know they need this," he said. "To the companies with 50 devices, it won't be that important."