The influx of mobile devices in the enterprise and the barrage of products to manage them has sparked debate over enterprise mobility management -- specifically, whether IT admins focus on managing mobile devices, applications or information.
With more than 100 vendors in the enterprise mobility management market today, it's a major challenge to cut through the noise and identify the best tools and techniques to enable viable, sustainable, cost-effective mobile IT strategies. Perhaps the biggest questions relate to the feature set required for successful mobile operations and how to deploy the right combination of products and services. But with so many new technologies and products appearing on the market, there's a danger that functional overlap and complexity could quickly sink even the most well-intentioned and well-thought-out processes. Simplicity is the key to success, but as always, such simplicity is never realized on day one.
There are three main components of and approaches to enterprise mobility management: mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM) and mobile information management (MIM). Using all three together is the most effective way to handle enterprise mobility management; it's just a matter of choosing the right tools to address each aspect. Keep in mind that you'll need to take care of employee training, policy creation and enforcement and other personnel issues no matter which technologies you decide on.
Comparing enterprise mobility management options
MDM is all about locking down devices. The theory is that a device configured to enterprise specifications will be as secure and manageable as one that's enterprise-owned. Managing configuration and enforcing policies (such as virus scanning and virtual private network use) are the hallmarks of MDM, but MDM software can have dozens of functions. The drawback is that MDM can affect the personal information on a device. For example, if IT wipes a lost or stolen device, the user will lose everything -- not just sensitive corporate data.
More on enterprise mobility management
MDM FAQ: How IT can learn to stop worrying and love BYOD
Mobile application security best practices: Leveraging MDM, MAM tools
Choosing an MDM system: Fundamental features for success
MAM operates under the theory that IT can maintain security and infrastructure integrity through application blacklisting and whitelisting. It's about managing applications instead of devices, with IT controlling which users can access which applications on which devices.
The idea behind MIM is that protecting enterprise information is the key to successful mobile operations. MIM creates a secure sandbox around sensitive data, keeping it encrypted and allowing only approved applications to access or transmit it.
All three approaches are viable, and at least parts of each are required for successful enterprise mobility management.
The overlap between MDM, MAM and MIM is actually quite minimal. (Still, testing is required to make sure different products aren't stepping on each other's toes, although the eventual development of standards should also help in that area.) The core issue is in management systems' overhead: Because each management option has its own console, that's where the biggest overlap in functionality is. The key steps to avoiding too much overlap in enterprise mobility management systems are:
- developing a mobility strategy;
- verifying that the systems selected address this strategy;
- making sure that operational management is as simple as possible; and
- regularly educating users and re-evaluating the products and services in use.
As the enterprise mobility management industry evolves and best practices emerge, overlap among different products will lessen. But this evolution will take time.