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Digging into mobile device management

How to sift through the many emerging options

Wireless Alert By Joanie Wexler, Network World
January 12, 2010 12:09 PM ET
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Industry analysis by expert Joanie Wexler, plus links to the day's wireless news headlines

I alluded recently to the chaotic state of mobile device management and security created, in part, by the myriad mobile handsets popping up left and right. If you are able to settle on a handset strategy (a challenging task in and of itself), how do you paw through the MDM choices and solutions out there to find the right one(s)?

You really need a basic mobility strategy before you can embark on finding the right MDM software, software-as-a-service (SaaS) or managed service. That means, at a minimum, knowing what handsets you intend to support. That strategy could range from standardizing on one or two or three platforms to opening things up to whatever users wish to bring into the enterprise. If you choose the second option, you'll need to get users to let you install some management and security controls on their devices if they're going to be accessing your corporate network.

There are reasons to keep support contained, and there are reasons not to, which is the topic of another discussion. Once you have figured this out, you need to examine the difference between the various MDM and security offerings.

It may seem obvious, but the first thing to look at is which devices a potential MDM software, SaaS or managed service manages so that you choose product(s) that work with the phones in your environment. Some MDM software makers say their software supports any and all mobile operating systems and devices. This is technically true, but usually they do this using a browser-based solution. This might suffice just fine. Generally speaking, though, MDM solutions that offer client agent software for the devices, integrated specifically with the mobile operating system, provide more control and capabilities.

Something to note on that score: Just because an MDM vendor supports multiple mobile operating systems and devices with client agent software doesn't mean that all features are supported across all platforms. (I know -- it's getting ugly.) What's possible to control is related to the capabilities and/or limitations of the mobile operating system itself.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in getting started with MDM evaluation. More on this subject later.

Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.

Joanie Wexler is an independent networking technology writer/editor in Silicon Valley.

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