Managing Enterprise Mobile Devices

Enterprises are going mobile these days. Employees use mobile devices to access, generate and manipulate business data while on the move. Enterprises like the gains in productivity as employees can work from virtually anywhere.

Businesses are embracing mobility due the fact that mobile devices are becoming increasingly powerful these days; some are almost as powerful as desktop computers were a few years ago. Extraordinary features have been packed into devices with small form factors which businesses simply cannot ignore.

There are two types of mobile users in any enterprise- business/executive users that use mobile devices primarily for communication purposes i.e. to make phone calls, check emails and browse the web. The other category is of mobile workers that use mobile devices in the field or within the office premises to collect and work on critical business data, e.g. inventory management, sales order taking, ticketing, parcel delivery services etc. Mobilizing this workforce requires a mobility solution designed as per the business needs.

Components of an Enterprise Mobility solution

There are various technologies that come together to form a good enterprise mobility solution.
• Wireless Networks
• Software (running on mobile devices and on backend systems)
• Mobile Devices
• Mobile Device Management Solutions

Benefits of a using an Enterprise Mobility solution:

• Increase in employee productivity
• Improve customer support
• Increase revenues

Role of mobile devices in an Enterprise Mobility solution

Mobile device is actually one of the most important components of an enterprise mobility solution. A mobile device is the one which connects to wireless infrastructure, goes into the hands of the employees, and runs mobile applications that connect to the middleware and the backend systems of a company.

Windows Mobile from Microsoft has been a platform of choice for enterprises for running their Line-of-business (LOB) applications. Availability of excellent development tools for building enterprise applications and tight integration of Windows Mobile with desktop Windows is the reason for its success in this market. Device vendors such as Motorola/Intermec/Honeywell manufacture and sell ruggedized handhelds based on Windows Mobile or Windows CE operating systems.

Just like an enterprise manages desktop PCs to ensure that they are always up and running, mobile devices also require proper management. Actually mobile devices need even more care, all because most of the time they reside outside the company walls and the company network. Physical security, data security, misuse and remote management needs of mobile devices are top concerns of any organization’s IT support department. The answer to this problem is to use an enterprise Mobile Device Management solution.

What is an Enterprise Mobile Device Management (MDM) Solution?

Mobile Device Management tools provide everything that an enterprise needs to effectively manage their fleet of mobile devices while reducing their total cost of ownership (TCO).

Some features of an enterprise mobile device management solution are:

• Centralized software deployment:
o Remote Installation of new applications or patches ensures that all the devices in an enterprise are up to date with latest software. This reduces device downtime and increases productivity of mobile workers and IT support people as well.

• Apply security policies:
o Regulate what features of the mobile device can be used by employees, e.g. some companies don’t allow use of devices with Bluetooth or Camera within office premises. An MDM solution can disable these features via software. There is no need for the company to lookout and purchase special devices from the market where these features are physically absent.

• Remote Date Wipe:
o Capability to initiate remote wipe of all the information stored on the mobile devices, especially if a mobile device is lost or falls in the wrong hands. Remote Data Wipe can also be used to “cleanup” the device before handing it over to a new user. Various events like SIM card change and device not being able to connect to the server for a specified time can trigger a data wipe operation.

• Wireless Expense Management:
o Generate reports to determine the expense incurred by the employees while using the device for voice or data purposes. This information can help companies in selecting the most cost-effective carrier plans and to formulate employee policies to ensure they utilize the wireless services within allowed limits.

• Locating mobile devices on the map:
o To determine on the map where a mobile device is currently located. A manager can use this information to optimally assign jobs to field workers based on their proximity to a particular location.

• Device data backup:
o Capability to backup device data at regular intervals or on-demand, after-all data is “everything” for an enterprise.

• Remote Helpdesk Support:
o Capability to remotely control and access device to troubleshoot any device related problems or remotely guide the end-user. This is similar to the way administrators remotely access and control desktop PCs.
o Remote view of file system on the device
o Remote view of running processes on the device and capability to terminate the offending processes.
o Remote registry viewing and editing capability
o Capability to remotely reset the device

Deploying an Enterprise Mobile Device Management Solution

Once an MDM solution has been selected, it is recommended to do a pilot run before deploying it across the enterprise. The pilot should focus on technical aspects like performance in low bandwidth networks and scalability. Focus should also be on handling non-technical aspects like acceptance of the solution by employees, determining training needs of the IT team and start identifying policies to apply on the devices and users.

About the Author

Author is the founder of 42Gears, Bangalore. 42Gears is a startup providing mobile device management solutions for enterprises helping them maximize the benefits of mobility. Read more about 42Gears at http://www.42Gears.com.

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