Mobile device management checklist

By Lisa Phifer

Ideally, IT should be at least aware of every smartphone and tablet used in an organization, from activation to retirement. Accomplishing this requires a cohesive plan for mobile device management.

As business use of smartphones and tablets continues to grow, inadequate IT oversight and control is having negative effects. Up to one-third of companies acknowledge that smartphone use is being hindered or slowed because IT admins cannot manage the devices to the extent they would like, according to a 2012 Osterman Research study; the situation is even worse for tablets.

Mobile devices: Out of sight, out of mind

For the past decade, IT departments turned a blind eye to mobile handhelds, believing that cell phones were too limited and PDAs saw too little use to warrant attention. But today's increasingly powerful converged mobile devices have blown past both barriers, leaving IT in the hot seat. After all, you cannot secure what you don't manage, and you cannot manage what you don't see.

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Creating a mobile device security policy

Mobile device management (MDM) can help your business plug this gaping hole by enabling remote visibility and control over smartphones and other handheld devices carried by your workforce. But MDM can also be a frustratingly vague term, applied to a diverse collection of products. The first step is to define precisely what you want an MDM system to do for your mobile workforce. The following checklist can help you identify your needs and common MDM capabilities that could address them.

Mobile asset inventory

Clearly, your MDM must maintain a list of devices to be managed -- that is, your mobile asset inventory. But what should your inventory include, and how will it be maintained?

Mobile device provisioning

Managing a device through its lifecycle begins with activation and provisioning. How will each new device become an authorized, capable member of your handheld fleet?

Mobile software distribution

Many MDMs go beyond device inventory and configuration, providing tools that deliver and update mobile applications. This may not be Job 1, but it should be a close second.

Mobile security management

On handhelds, device and security management tend to converge. Many MDMs offer basic security features that are missing from mobile OSs or related to device tasks.

Mobile data protection

Data just might be the most sensitive corporate asset on any mobile handheld. MDMs can help you preserve and protect that mobile data.

Monitoring and help desk support

Mobile device total cost of ownership can far exceed hardware/software purchase. Over time, MDM should pay for itself by reducing maintenance and support costs. How?

Your company probably does not need everything on this checklist, and any single MDM product is unlikely to cover all of these bases. Instead, treat this checklist as though it were a menu, introducing you to a foreign cuisine. Some considerations are simply variations on traditional desktop management needs, while others may be new and unfamiliar. Try a few MDMs to gain field experience with mobile user and device requirements before settling on an Enterprise mobility management strategy for your workforce.

04 Mar 2013

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