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Mobile management morphs

Robert L. Mitchell | May 16, 2013
Customers are pushing the limits of the software -- asking it to manage and do many more things than it was originally created to do -- and vendors are happy to oblige.

Scholastic is moving off BoxTone and going with AirWatch's SaaS offering for 1,000 BlackBerries, 1,200 iPhones and 100 or so employee-owned smartphones. "BoxTone is on premises and we spent a lot of time and energy to keep it going," he says. While the vendor introduced its own SaaS option last year, Abraham felt that AirWatch's implementation was more mature. "AirWatch aligns well with our cloud strategy," he says.

Advice from the trenches
When selecting an MDM product, Abraham recommends testing the quality of support and making sure the core features work as advertised. "BoxTone does a better job than AirWatch managing BlackBerries," he says. But Abraham has experienced problems with the accuracy of BoxTone's inventory screen in the recent past (a problem BoxTone says has been remedied). "Whatever you look at, ensure that it does your basics and does them well," he advises.

Containerization approaches also differ - there are no industry standards -- so it's important to test. With BoxTone, for example, when a new app is pushed to the secure container the user has to log in to the container to find and use it, says Abraham, while with AirWatch, "It just kind of appears."

Look for tight integration with email, CenterBeam's Pirooz advises. Some MDM software can disable an account that was hacked but can't take down the user's mailbox itself, he says. One reason he likes Tivoli Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices is that if it detects a jailbroken device, it can shut down the person's mailbox. In this way the person can't get his email from any device until he comes forward to resolve the issue.

The tools are changing quickly, so it's also important to reassess, Pirooz says. He was required to use Tivoli Endpoint Manager in his previous position at EDS and wasn't impressed. But since then IBM acquired and integrated BigFix into Tivoli. "Now it's much better," he says.

Written policies Do you have a written mobile-use policy in place? Yes - 68% No - 30% Don't know - 2% Source: Computerworld survey, April 2013, base 97

Most of the prominent MDM tools also support the creation of an enterprise app store -- a feature that IT executives say their users find helpful. Hillarys has one in-house-developed app its sales representatives can download, but its store also includes other recommended Android apps for download, including Flashlight and Tape Measure. "Rather than forcing them to go to Google Play it's easier to just point them to a corporate area with all of the apps we recommend," Bond says.

At Skanska, Roman uses AirWatch to both push out homegrown enterprise apps and to provide access to others on demand through an app store, which has both a corporate and public apps page. Users belong to groups based on location, and each group has different policy controls that lock out or enable certain features based on the needs and regulatory restrictions in each region.


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