Mobile-Device Management Software: The IT Pro's New Best Friend

NEWS ANALYSIS: Enterprises typically support multiple mobile-device platforms, but managing them is a major challenge. Here's what enterprise IT managers need to do to maintain control over their mobile assets.

Supporting, maintaining and accounting for mobile technologies-whether a laptop, smartphone or, now, a tablet-has never been easy for enterprise IT managers. Take the laptop, for instance, one of the first devices that left the corporate walls with road warriors, salespeople and executives on the go.

At first, laptops weren't always connected to the Internet, so they were more difficult to manage than a fleet of connected, corporate desktops. During this time, companies began developing IT management software to keep track of the always connected, corporate LAN PC fleet. Since laptops weren't always connected, IT managers began using this new software to update, monitor and account for employees' laptops.

However, as the laptop became ubiquitous, and software companies developed better applications to keep track of them, watching after laptops-and what data could be downloaded or uploaded from them-became easier.

Then, Research in Motion gave the business world the BlackBerry, which complicated the mobile environment again with small handhelds that helped busy executives get email and appointment reminders while they were away from their offices. With the freedom came more corporate data and information that could easily wander away from the firewall.

Now, the typical traveling executive has three mobile devices: a laptop, a smartphone and a tablet. And another strange thing has happened back in the office: Laptops have replaced desktops as the PC of choice for most employees. Thus, mobility is now the centerpiece of enterprise computing for employees.

The challenge through the proliferation of mobile-system deployments is to maintain management and control over the company's IT assets. Corporate standard configurations of software for PCs now have to incorporate multiple configurations and multiple manufacturers, including traditional Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X, Apple iOS, BlackBerry OS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone. Each platform demands different device-management services.

The challenges IT administrators face in the management of mobile devices include the following:

  • The ability to manage the employee's new mobile lifestyle (Think: "How do I maintain the software on all these devices, provide access to the enterprise servers and synchronize personal information as well?")
  • The ability to ensure full lifecycle management and support across a range of different devices-smartphones, laptops and tablets-and multiple operating systems. (Think: "Mobile devices are continually being certified, retired and replaced and maintained in a not-always-connected environment.")
  • The ability to provide the right technology to manage applications, as well as the distribution of documents across an entire organization. (Think: "We now have more applications, more documents and more ways for employees to access them.")