How to protect smartphones and tablets

New tools tame Apple iOS, Android, Blackberry devices and more

Managing mobile devices entails a level of complexity unheard of in the traditional enterprise world of Windows desktops. MDM software needs to control devices from multiple manufacturers, running different versions of as many as five operating systems, tied to carrier networks with their own particular constraints.

This makes mobile device management a tough battle, but one that IT execs need to take on because mobile device users can lose important company data, potentially increase personal and organizational liability, and compromise systems security at levels that will frighten even the most jaded of IT administrators.

We set up a comprehensive test that included eight mobile devices, four operating systems, two service providers and five mobile management vendors (see How We Did It).

Fiberlink's MaaS360 is our Clear Choice Winner, based on its strong overall performance, particularly its ease of use. But the competition was tough. McAfee's Enterprise Mobility Manager delivered excellent security features. Tangoe's MDM displayed a strong methodology for managing fleets of devices. Sybase Afaria supported a huge list of devices, but was difficult to configure and use.

We tried WaveLink's MDM offering, but it was incomplete in most smartphone operating system coverage and still mostly in beta at deadline time (see sidebar).

We also invited MobileIron, Symantec, Novell and BoxTone, none of which could summon resources. Apple declined to "support the review,'' but we obtained our own Apple testing resources. We asked Verizon, T-Mobile and Research in Motion for assistance with the test, and RIM was the only vendor of the three that helped out.

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