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How the evolution of the workplace is changing endpoint management

As employees amass devices -- PCs, personal laptops, smartphones and tablets -- endpoint management becomes increasingly difficult for IT.

Back when the office was contained within four walls and employees only had a single computing device that never left the building, endpoint management was fairly simple. Endpoint devices -- basically users’ PCs -- needed to comply with specific criteria before users were granted access to network resources.

Endpoint management

Part 1: How the evolution of the workplace is changing endpoint management

Part 2: How changing desktop access helps improve endpoint management

Part 3: The future of mobile endpoint management: Devices won't matter

But there’s no longer just one endpoint per employee. What used to just be a single corporate-provided Windows PC to access data and applications has ballooned into complicated mess of ownership scenarios and different operating systems. Now, users might have any combination of the following to do their jobs: a Windows PC provided by the organization, a personal Apple computer at home, and a smartphone or tablet.

The evolution of endpoint management, then, is really the story of the evolution of the employee workspace (desktop, applications and data) and all of the management and security tools that have been developed to support and control it.

For most IT pros, untangling those methods to securely deliver data to employees’ endpoints can be daunting because it has evolved so much over the past decade—and rightfully so, said John Little, chief technology officer at Venture Technologies in Ridgeland, Miss.

“When everything was a corporate asset, you could control the information by controlling the device,” Little said. “Information was stored on the corporate servers, and it wasn’t going anywhere. [Only] once that [intellectual property] started to leave the perimeter because of new devices and cloud apps did we realize we really needed to control the leakage of that information.”

The transformation of the employee workspace has increased at warp speed with the adoption of cloud, social, and mobile technologies. These tectonic shifts have forced IT to examine how best to secure data and deliver services beyond the firewall.

Endpoint management and security systems can be purchased as software or as dedicated appliances. Such systems can enable IT to discover, manage and control computing devices that request access to the enterprise network. Endpoints that do not comply with corporate policy can be controlled, to varying degrees.

These endpoint management systems, such as IBM’s Tivoli Endpoint Manager, Novell’s ZENWorks Endpoint Management Suite and LANDesk Management Suite, can come with a variety of features including automated patch management, asset reporting, application distribution, and OS migration tools. Beyond specific functions, though, these tools serve a greater purpose.

IT’s objective has always been controlling the security of its data and delivering services to employees as efficiently as possible, said Kent Christensen, director of data center services at Datalink Corp. in Eden Prairie, Minn.

“It’s really that simple and difficult,” he said.

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