Mobile Device Management Can Create Order out of Chaos

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The burgeoning world of smartphones is a big headache for those charged with managing them. This long feature at InformationWeek maps out the threat and presents what in essence are two interrelated ways of approaching the problem.


The first layer consists of the actual tools used to keep the devices secure. This includes use of virtual private networks (VPNs), blocking access to public Wi-Fi, using strong passwords, physically blocking removable storage ports, educating employees and IT and encrypting data.


The other layer is the software used to manage and mediate between all of these tools. The piece says mobile device management (MDM) software is available, and mentions vendors Sybase, Smith Micro and Odyssey. Proprietary MDM software can be found on Research In Motion's BlackBerry Enterprise Server and Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for Windows Mobile smartphones.


MDM, which has a mandate that extends beyond security, is on some pretty important minds. This post describes the loss in Europe of a Nokia e61i by Pejman Roshan, the vice president of marketing and founder of enterprise mobility firm Agito Networks. The device did not have active MDM software. Roshan -- who fessed up when he didn't have to -- said he should have known better than to not have MDM software running on the device when he lost it. He used his laptop VPN to get all his passwords and disable the phone. There was nothing he could do to ensure that nobody was looking at the data on the device, however.


Not all high-level executives need a personal reminder of the importance of MDM. At the RIM Wireless Enterprise Symposium last month in Orlando, company president Mike Lazaridis said the biggest challenge faced by IT department in the face of proliferating smartphones is providing adequate MDM and monitoring. CIO.com reports that the new version of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, BES 4.1 SP5, features the BlackBerry Monitoring Service. BMS provides monitoring, alerting, troubleshooting and reporting.


Network World discusses the linking of Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 into Windows Mobile 6.1. The application only works with Windows Mobile 6.1. It is deployed behind the firewall and requires a separate license for each mobile client. The heart of the story is a complex graphic describing how the system works.


The bottom line is that MDM management is a huge and growing area. While it includes a tremendous amount of security features, it also helps manage usage and collect valuable data. IT managers who pay attention to MDM may, in the long run, drastically reduce their mobile headaches.