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Weighing pros and cons of mobile application management

Rather than focusing on gaining access to users' devices, MAM puts the power squarely in IT's hands to protect mobile applications on any device.

Organizations are finding innovative ways to create value with mobile applications, but sending corporate data to employee-owned phones opens that data up to a deluge of security risks. Mobile application management can help IT maintain and secure apps without users feeling that administrators have control over the entire device.

At the beginning of the bring your own device (BYOD) era, companies focused on managing and securing all the new mobile devices on the network. But as organizations mobilize more business processes, many IT departments are changing focus from mobile device management (MDM) to mobile application management (MAM) in an effort to simplify management, enhance security and empower users.

MAM allows IT to go beyond the device itself by controlling the actual data, which is promising for security, but development, support and distribution costs are just a few of the issues to keep in mind.

Why MDM isn't enough

Controlling devices through an MDM platform helps IT limit the possibility of exposing corporate data. IT can place an MDM profile on users' personally-owned devices for an added layer of security, but employees often balk at this setup. Without a profile, IT has no way to control what users do with their devices.

IT departments end up having to strike a balance, sometimes implementing only a few MDM features -- such as device encryption -- but leaving out others that might scare off users from enrolling their devices. This is where mobile application management can bridge the divide between end users and IT.

Benefits of MAM

MAM lets IT manage corporate applications while leaving personal apps alone, which should appease BYOD users nervous about IT watching over their shoulder. With MAM, developers wrap a software developer's kit (SDK) within applications to apply security policies to the application itself without the need for an MDM profile on the device. Security policies include the ability to authenticate users, set an expiration for access to data, create restrictions on copy and paste, deny access to cloud backup and provide app-level tunneling to the corporate network.

MAM platforms also allow IT to deploy applications through an enterprise app store, rather than publish business applications to public app stores such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Deploying apps to a private app store lets businesses control the distribution without having to go through the time, risk of rejection and complexity it takes to get approval through the public app store process.

What makes MAM complex?

MAM is a valuable tool for IT, but realizing all the potential benefits is often easier said than done.

MAM allows IT to manage corporate applications while leaving personal apps alone, which should appease BYOD users nervous about IT watching over their shoulder.

For starters, developers need to make sure they're using the current versions of SDKs, or whatever version is most compatible with the organization's MAM platform. MAM becomes even more complicated if developers use third-party resources to develop applications.

If IT updates its MAM coverage or applies new security policies, developers may need to update applications already in use to enable added management and security features or conform to new guidelines.

Keep in mind that BYOD users may access applications on multiple operating systems. IT must be aware of any OS differences to make sure they meet their mobile app security requirements for every platform on which they support the application. This makes developing, distributing and securing applications even more complex.

The cost of MAM

Implementing MAM increases the development, support and distribution cost of applications. Costs can go up because of the additional development time it takes to implement the SDK, more licenses needed per user or device and the added time IT needs to manage the MAM platform.

Also, IT will spend additional time developing best practices and parameters for governance over testing, wrapping and deploying applications. These procedures can seem mundane and increase cost and complexity, but both are key to a successful MAM implementation.

Mobile applications continue to provide enterprises with opportunities to increase employee productivity, enhance customer experience and transform business processes. It's important to get as much value out of these applications as possible, but IT can't ignore the need to secure data on mobile devices. A MAM strategy will go a long way toward securing that data, especially with users on mobile devices that are not currently under MDM coverage.

Next Steps

Considering the options: MDM, MAM and MIM

What's new with mobile app development?

Take a look at the MAM vendor marketplace

This was last published in May 2015

Dig Deeper on EMM tools | Enterprise mobility management technology

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