The rapid expansion of mobility initiatives in the enterprise can make an IT manager’s head spin. “Hundreds of new smartphones and tab- lets have been launched by vendors in 2011, and each presents unique support challenges,” says Jonathan Dale, product marketing manager for Fiberlink Communications. “There is no realistic way to test and approve which devices IT will support and which ones they will not. That means IT has a real challenge in setting their support strategy.”

Beyond platform variety, there is also the issue of operating system upgrades. “This ranges from highly predictable Apple iOS devices on one end of the spectrum to Android on the other — with its hundreds of devices and several major OS releases per year,” says Joe Granda, executive VP of marketing at Syclo. “Companies are scrambling to plug vulnerabilities and learn the differences between device form factors and OS versions.”

Due to these trends, MDM solutions have had to evolve. “The focus is shifting from managing the physical device to managing the applications on the device,” says Dan Ortega, senior director of product marketing at Sybase, an SAP company. “In addition, provisioning applications on the device has become a major issue. What happens, for example, when you need to deploy a complex application to 5,000 devices, and there are technical configuration requirements that are beyond the skill of the end user? New capabilities such as client-side libraries allow portal-based configuration of complex applications. Without this type of capability, IT would be very hard-pressed to scale mobility across the enterprise.”

Enforce Mobile Device Policies

There has been increasing pressure for IT departments to allow any device presented to them onto the corporate network, whether the company owns the devices or not. While MDM solutions can be configured to accommodate individual-liable devices, it is important to establish security standards and stick to them. “While IT departments do try to support as many platforms as possible, it is absolutely vital that they do not do that at the expense of data security,” says Padraig Regan, CTO of B2M Solutions. “For example, you shouldn’t give users access to vital corporate resources if you can’t ensure the appropriate security constraints are in place.”

Corporations inherently have less control over individual-liable devices, and therefore have to establish policies for them. “It’s critical to understand that all devices are not equal,” Regan says. “They have different capabilities, and companies need to understand each one’s capabilities and design appropriate security and access policies. The vital role MDM plays is to ensure that the organization remains in control of its property, even if that is in the form of data or e-mails on a remote device, at all times, in all situations, and for every device connected.”

Companies must also establish policies around whether they can wipe or block applications on an individual-liable device, and whether they will compensate the employee for the device or the service plan.

“A dedicated MDM solution allows enterprises to enforce their unique device policies, accommodating each of the factors above on a custom basis. In every case, we find that the biggest challenge for IT is having the conversation with users, not implementing the technology,” Dale says.

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