Oct 06 2011

How to Keep Tabs on Mobile Devices

Mobile-device management applications can boost security efforts.

Mobile-device management (MDM) applications provide central management consoles that add a layer of security and control to mobile environments.

By using software agents downloaded to mobile devices, MDM applications help authorize whether a device is allowed to tap into the corporate network.

MDM programs can also scan devices for viruses when they log on to the network or download enterprise applications. They can also centrally set up e-mail and other types of business accounts.

In short, “MDM allows you to extend IT services into disconnected worlds,” says Mark Jordan, senior product manager for Afaria, an MDM solution from Sybase that supports multiple mobile-computing environments.

For example, Afaria can check to see which version of an operating system an individual device is running to make sure it’s current and conforms to the organization’s security policies. “So if you’re still running an outdated version of an operating system and that’s against the security mode, you won’t be allowed to access corporate e-mail,” Jordan says.

Similarly, Microsoft offers System Center Mobile Device Manager, server-based software that performs management and security services for mobile devices. It complements versions of Microsoft System Center designed to manage notebook systems.

When evaluating MDM applications, consider additional features that can do the following:

  • See the big picture: The best MDM consoles provide a central place where IT managers can monitor and manage all devices and applications under their control. This includes downloading software updates to devices while they’re in the field or disabling features, such as smartphone cameras, depending on corporate policies.
  • Protect data: Look for utilities that allow data to be backed up or wiped clean from a device if hardware is reported lost or stolen.
  • Scramble information: MDM programs should automatically encrypt sensitive data as it’s downloaded to devices to assure it stays secure when users roam outside corporate walls.
  • Accommodate growth: “Bring your own device” initiatives, and mobile implementations in general, are on a growth trajectory. Make sure a prospective MDM system can scale easily to handle from dozens to thousands of users.