Every time a new mobile gadget comes onto the market, it is left to the IT department to find a way of providing it with network, data and application access. Integrating support, management and security policies for new mobile hardware and software into an existing IT infrastructure is not always simple, but there are plenty of remote device management applications that can help.
Research firm Forrester points out that the iPad uses the same security model as other smartphones. RIM’s BlackBerry and devices based on Google’s Android 2.2 mobile OS already have suitable management tools, as do those based on Windows 7 tablet edition and Windows Phone 7, while Apple offers increasingly better compatibility with third-party software.
Earlier this year, Filewave added iPhone and iPad support to its client management suite, for example, with other vendors including Absolute Software and Zenprise already offering support for Apple iOS within their own equivalents. So in theory at least, the many mobile device management applications already on the market can happily accommodate a range of different, cross-platform devices without too much trouble.
Most of these tools provide a common set of features and functions. Zenprise MobileManager is able automatically to provision new iOS devices with access to Microsoft Exchange of Lotus Notes email, calendars and contacts when they are first activated, and set up WPA, WEP and WPA2 Wi-Fi encryption as well as LT2P, PPTP, IPSec, Cisco and Juniper security sockets layer (SSL) based VPN access and proxy server configurations.
Administrators can also collect information about the devices themselves, such as OS version number, model, security profile details, encryption levels, storage capacity, applications installed and registered phone number and mobile operator. They can even disable cameras, block YouTube or iTunes access, prevent application purchases and multi-player gaming, if required, as well as enforce encrypted data backups.
In some cases it is possible to isolate business settings in a “sandbox” – a secure area of the device that hosts sensitive corporate profiles and data separately from other applications, leaving the user free to do whatever they want with the rest of the device’s functions.
Remote wipe capabilities are essential to enforce security: if a device is lost or stolen, its memory and storage can be partially or fully erased after a certain number of failed login attempts, for example, while IT departments can also enforce password and auto-locking of devices following a pre-defined period of inactivity.
“The IT department can do [all] this on a single device on a face-to-face basis with that individual user, but if you have 20 of them, using remote management software should arguably save you time and money, as well as introducing uniformity,” says John Martin, European director of mobile device management specialist Wavelink. “By the time you get to 100 devices it is difficult to think of doing it without some form of automation.”
Some remote device management applications, including Zenprise MobileManager, can also identify rarely used iOS devices and de-activate carrier data and voice plans to save money.
“So long as they have something that does remote wipe and implements a simple cost policy, they do not [unnecessarily] pay 3G roaming fees on the device itself because networks are really expensive and there is lots of elasticity in data prices,” says Steve Wastie (pictured), vice president of product management at enterprise mobility service provider iPass.
While an IT department can deploy its own remote management tools to handle device administration and control, it also has the option of outsourcing the task to third-party managed service providers. Wavelink’s Avalanche software is sold in partnership with Jade, which combines mobile device support – everything from smartphones to tablet PCs and ruggedised handhelds to barcode readers – with wireless LAN infrastructure implementations and voice/data application installations.
Mobile operators and telecommunications companies also offer managed enterprise mobility services. Vodafone’s Smartphone Professional offers security and device management for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia devices combined with data allowances and helpdesk support for corporate users, for example, with Orange Business Services offering centralised mobile control, security compliance and application deployment based on Sybase’s Afaria platform.
Vodafone recently won a big contract with the Metropolitan Police, primarily for network access but also support for the force’s network of different mobile devices, including its BlackBerrys.