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Three new options emerge for managing smartphones in the enterprise

Hosted solutions make big promises but remain unproven

By Network World staff, Network World
March 12, 2010 11:36 AM ET

Network World - The surge of iPhones and other smartphones in the enterprise is a major headache for IT departments. Now, there are three new medicines that may help to ease that pain.

All three are hosted solutions for managing and securing smartphones, essentially mobile computers accessing corporate networks and data.

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The solutions include a joint effort from Enterprise Mobile and Mobile Iron; a new mobile e-mail protection service from Mobile Active Defense; and a new add-on for Keynote Systems' automated smartphone application testing service.

All three promise to in effect create some or the entire management infrastructure you need to secure mobile devices as effectively as desktop computers. You don't have to buy, install, run and manage the software yourself. Instead, a Web-based interface gives IT managers access to monitoring, management and security data for their mobile smartphone users.

One, aimed exclusively at the enterprise, is a joint effort by two companies. Enterprise Mobile is a Microsoft-backed mobile integrator that offers a battery of services to support mobile device rollouts for corporate users. The second is MobileIron,  which offers a server appliance packed with software to monitor the smartphone, its applications and SMS messages, cellular signal strength and dropped voice calls. The server talks to a small agent running on the handset.

With data from the agent, MobileIron creates on the server a virtual replica of each particular smartphone, storing information about its activities, performance and wireless environment.  

Enterprise Mobile will run the MobileIron appliance at a hosting service's data center, and then offer enterprise customers two options: They can manage their mobile phone users themselves via Web access to the service, or can outsource that function  to Enterprise Mobile's staff. The service supports the iPhone (its main target at the outset), Windows Mobile (now Windows Phone) and Symbian, with support for Android-based phones by mid-2010. Customers will pay a set-up fee and then a monthly charge per device.

"It's comparable to an enterprise outsourcing its laptops to a systems integrator," says Robert Tinker, president and CEO of MobileIron. "Enterprise IT wants to do the same thing with mobile. They don't have the depth of expertise or the tools to do it themselves."

"More and more customers want to do a hosted service for simplicity and cost-effectiveness," says Mort Rosenthal, CEO of Enterprise Mobile. "We worked with MobileIron to create this service and lower the barrier-for-entry for enterprise smartphone deployments."

The second offering, which has a more targeted focus, is a hosted service to protect smartphone-based e-mail, for both enterprise and consumer users. It's the brainchild of Mobile Application Development Partners.

The service, dubbed Mobile Active Defense (MAD), is essentially a trusted intermediary authorized to log into your various mail accounts and copy e-mail to its own servers. MAD's antispam and antiphishing algorithms will scan all the messages and attachments, and filter out junk mail and malware. A GUI lets users or administrators manage e-mail, for example, blocking downloads of messages with attachments bigger than 10MB.

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