The bring your own device (BYOD) trend is great for employee efficiency and reducing equipment costs, but not so great for managed services providers (MSPs) who have to wrangle the many devices and associated security risks. When employees connect to their company’s network using their personal smartphones or laptops, they unwittingly create a breeding ground for security, connectivity, and privacy issues unless they are managed properly.
Common BYOD choices like tablets and smartphones are less secure than laptops because they are often not protected in the same way—while software like anti-malware apps is becoming more prevalent it is still nowhere near as ubiquitous as it is for laptops or desktops—and this means confidential data can be left vulnerable to cyberattacks. What’s more, personal devices are not directly supervised by IT staff and are not always capable of handling the high-quality antivirus solutions that small businesses require.
How can SMBs reconcile security concerns with the desire to let employees work with their own tools? Mobile device management (MDM) is an easy and effective way for MSPs to keep track of all the devices within a client’s environment.
What is mobile device management used for?
Mobile device management is an IT department software solution that allows employees to access their corporate network and data from their personal devices, regardless of their location. In short, it is used to oversee, regulate, and secure employees’ portable devices. MDM is often used as an umbrella term that encompasses mobile application management, mobile content management, and conditional exchange access.
The goal of mobile device management is to make mobile devices as secure and functional as possible while simultaneously protecting the surrounding network. It also serves to answer the big “what if” questions. If an employee is fired, what happens to the sensitive data that is on their personal device or devices? What if a device is lost or stolen? Will saved data still exist on their smartphone or will it be wiped?
MDM is comprised of two parts:
- Endpoint software called an MDM agent
- A separate MDM server that lives in a data center either on-premises or in the cloud
MSPs use the MDM server console to configure policies, then the MDM server moves those policies through to the MDM agent to the device. After that, the agent executes the policies by communicating with APIs on the device’s operating system. MSPs can also use the MDM server to install applications on all managed devices at once.
Why is mobile device management important?
Mobile device management is important because it is the only surefire way for MSPs to monitor and manage their clients’ portable devices on their own without incurring the cost of outside expertise.
The numbers don’t lie—SMBs are increasingly adopting more mobile solutions to keep up with the zeitgeist and adapt to how their employees prefer to operate on a day-to-day basis. Research from the SMB Group consulting firm shows that 68 percent of small and medium businesses think mobile solutions are critical for operational efficiency and productivity, while 57 percent currently use mobile apps for business purposes.
According to a recent Security Intelligence Survey, BYOD policies are also on the rise—but device security still lags behind. The survey found that 60% of businesses currently let employees bring their own devices, but only 10% have a defined plan to authorize and secure them.
Without the benefits of mobile device management, devices go unsecured, sensitive information is left vulnerable to theft, and exposure to malware and other viruses critically increases. If a company falls prey to a data breach because of mobile device mismanagement, IT costs will skyrocket.
MSPs must provide MDM services not only to keep pace with how their clients use mobile devices today, but also to adhere to the latest cybersecurity standards. As the remote workforce and the gig economy grows and we become more reliant on mobile communications, this vector becomes a more valuable target for hackers. As a result, more investment is necessary to manage the associated cybersecurity risks. The latest recommendations from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for SMBs include installing a remote-wiping application on mobile devices, training your employees, and using mobile devices with encryption capabilities. To help manage and implement some of these security practices, many SMBs and MSPs are turning to mobile device management.
What does mobile device management help with?
MDM programs help with finding a scalable solution to regulate portable devices. A mobile device management tool must be able to execute effective solutions across multiple mobile service providers and operating systems. A centralized platform is especially helpful for MSPs who spend a lot of time securing phones and tablets for their customers, or MSPs that have too many devices to handle manually.
From a security standpoint, mobile device management software automatically enhances network security with encryption and containerization capabilities. With MDM, MSPs can partition personal user information away from the company side and encrypt certain information so that even if a hacker gets through the partition, they will not be able to gain entry. If someone’s personal device is stolen or they leave the company, MSPs can remotely remove corporate data from their system without affecting any of the personal data surrounding it.
Here’s a condensed list of mobile device management features to look for when making a decision for your MSP:
- A cloud-based service to facilitate easy and automatic updates
- 24/7 automatic monitoring
- Scaling capabilities to account for users entering and exiting the network
- Remote disconnection, configuration, and data wiping functions
- Enhanced logging and reporting functions for IT standards compliance purposes
Remote monitoring management is a type of sister software to mobile device management that also helps MSPs secure mobile devices, client endpoints, and corporate networks. RMM platforms securely connect to servers with a few clicks so MSPs can more efficiently detect issues, deploy patches, and manage network devices.
SolarWinds RMM is a single solution that offers MSPs everything they need to oversee a whole host of mobile devices.
What are the benefits of MDM?
The key benefits of mobile device management include, but certainly are not limited to:
- Ease of remote managementThe primary benefit of mobile device management is that it allows MSPs to monitor and manage portable devices from wherever they are. In a sense, MDM is built to beat mobile devices at their own game. This agility reinforces healthy devices and bolsters the ones that might need a little help.
Remote management also enhances network security by making it possible to disable certain users, even if said users are not on-premises. Updated regulations also populate themselves across all devices on the network, which contributes to seamless protection and support.
- Bring your own device support The second most important benefit of MDM is how well suited it is to the BYOD movement. Traditional technologies reject any unknown devices that have not been previously recognized, which is a huge problem for companies full of employees bringing two to three separate devices from home.
Mobile device management understands that not all unknown devices are threats and helps MSPs keep an eye on them to balance security and flexibility. With MDM, companies do not have to choose between network security and employee freedoms.
- Controlled device updatesEverybody puts off software updates until the last possible moment from time to time. Unfortunately, employees who are too relaxed about updates jeopardize the security of the overall network by doing so. Hackers can take advantage of the holes left behind by insufficient updating or patching to gain access to confidential information.
Mobile device management allows MSPs to centrally control updates and apply system changes to devices across the network with just a few clicks. This function also facilitates compliance with government regulations—for example, HIPAA patch management requirements for healthcare organizations or the GLBA Safeguards Rule for financial institutions—and makes it easier to protect data.
- Increased network securityAlong those same lines, MDM best practices are critical for increasing network security. A large part of this is due to the automatic updating capabilities and security features already mentioned. With MDM, MSPs can easily apply updates across hundreds of devices, encrypt confidential corporate information, and build a barrier between personal information and company data.
In addition, mobile device management’s remote capabilities make it easier to regulate security from afar. Imagine an employee is away at a technology conference and does not realize they have left their work phone in the hotel lobby until they are three hours into an eight-hour flight. A mobile device management platform can remotely locate, lock, and wipe data from a device to protect sensitive information in the event that it is lost or stolen.
- Reduced IT needsWhen MSPs use a mobile device management platform, they significantly reduce their IT administration needs. Since MDM automates many of the time-consuming and labor-intensive processes involved in monitoring an entire fleet of mobile devices, resources and manpower are freed up for more sophisticated projects.
- Improved regulatory complianceOperating in accordance with IT standards and guidelines is of the utmost importance to MSPs. However, it can be difficult to make sure that all devices are in compliance when there are simply so many devices to keep track of. With mobile device management, compliance initiatives can be managed from one unified console, which facilitates better protection while working within the legal requirements.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of mobile device management? Explore our product suite to see how you can take advantage of mobile device management. Our remote monitoring and management tool is a great place to start.