Mobile administrators need to think about how to support employee-owned smartphones, and new offerings such as RIM's BES Express could be just the ticket.
Boxtone, a mobile device management vendor, recently
announced five enterprise mobility management predictions
for the year
2015. Among their prognostications, they recommended that enterprises must
prepare for the continued influx of a diverse mix of employee-owned mobile
devices, and that IT must plan to actively support multiple mobile platforms
and devices in the future rather than staying slavishly devoted to a single
By the numbers in the United States,
it certainly looks like BlackBerry and something that works with ActiveSync
will be the way to go, but what are the ways to provide that support?
According to a
recent Gartner study
, the iPhone, WebOS devices and Android phones
accounted for 19.8 percent of global smartphone sales in 2009. Although the
release doesn't break out corporate purchases versus personal ones, it is safe
to assume that, to date, few of those devices were bought by enterprise
purchasers for enterprise usage.
Instead, employees bought those devices for personal use and then looked to
attach them to corporate networks or services. Enterprise
IT's reaction has been all over the map for awhile, ranging from outright bans
to cautious acceptance. But in the last few months, I've seen an increasing
number of companies explicitly permitting and supporting employee-owned
devices-particularly the iPhone. Unfortunately, for many, the management
infrastructure to keep tabs on these devices is scarce.
Microsoft's ActiveSync is the protocol that enables e-mail synchronization
for these mobile platforms, and it can also provide mobile administrators with
policy controls over these devices via Exchange tools, although it can be a
crapshoot whether the handset maker implemented the technology to allow
this. Also, Exchange does a lousy job of tracking ActiveSync usage, so
little may be known about the users and devices accessing the network in this
Mobile management vendors such as Boxtone or Zenprise are trying to fill
that need now, tracking ActiveSync connections and logging details such as user
name, time of last e-mail sync or read action, as well as some details about
the device such as phone number, device type and serial number. Actual policy
enforcement and control over ActiveSync devices, however, remains in the dev
queue for these vendors.
The Gartner study also revealed that BlackBerry accounted for 19.9 percent
of global smartphone sales. While corporate buyers likely accounted for a
significant portion of these sales, a quick look at Amazon.com's best-selling
cell phone list indicates BlackBerry continues to have a lot of traction with
consumers as well (three of the top five).
BlackBerry is, of course, renowned for its enterprise suitability as
integration with a backend BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) typically
provides outstanding message and PIM delivery, policy controls, logging and
security options. But without BES, a lot of that enterprise suitability goes
out the window. And a lot of companies that use BlackBerrys don't have
That's why RIM's
forthcoming BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express
seems so enticing. RIM
designed the new software to be relatively lightweight-it purports to be
installable directly on an Exchange Server or a Windows Small Business Server
and still support up to 75 users (or up to 2,000 on its hardware). Express only
offers a subset of the policy controls available through BES (35 compared to
more than 450), but the price is certainly right-free for the software and the
client access licenses.
Businesses previously without centralized controls and enterprise services
could suddenly be able to enforce policy and security, while providing
additional services (such as wireless calendar and contact sync to Exchange)
not otherwise possible to employee-managed BlackBerrys. Users won't even need
to spring for the extra cost of the BES-enabled BlackBerry data plan.
Even larger enterprises with BES already in place could benefit from
Express, using the new server exclusively for employee-owned devices (and
thereby saving costs for client access licenses), while corporate-owned and
fully managed devices would get additional benefits and levels of services
through the BES.