Mobile Device Management

What Is Mobile Device Management And How Does It Work?

How does Mobile Device Management work? MDM helps organizations defend themselves against theft or unauthorized access to corporate resources and data, and protects against intellectual property loss.

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Today, as more and more employees rely heavily on mobile devices to do their work, it is becoming increasingly standard practice for organizations of all sizes and in various industries to turn to Mobile Device Management to achieve enhanced data security and improved productivity. Around 67% of employees use their personal devices for work and a shocking 87% of businesses depend on their employee’s ability to access mobile business apps from their smartphones, so there is plenty of room for vulnerabilities in this area.

So what is mobile device management? How does MDM work? And What are the key advantages of using these solutions? Read on to learn more.

What Is Mobile Device Managment?

Mobile Device Management (MDM) is a software tool for IT departments and administrators which is designed to support efforts to control and secure mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and IoT devices. MDM solutions can either be hosted in the cloud or onsite, and they enable the management of all mobile endpoints, including personal and company devices. The aim of an MDM solution is to find the perfect balance between device management, user productivity and policy compliance.

MDM solutions enhance data security by allowing admins to monitor and manage mobile devices and distribute security policies to any devices that are accessing sensitive corporate data. MDM solutions monitor important information about mobile device health, decide which apps can or cannot be present on the devices, locate the devices if they are lost, and secure the devices if they end up stolen or missing.

How does MDM work? The solution boosts device supportability, security, and corporate functionality, all while maintaining user flexibility. MDM solutions work most effectively in tandem with other security practices, such as multi-factor authentication, strong passwords, and geofencing or location tracking. For these reasons and others, MDM software has become a strong option for organizations looking to secure their mobile workforce.

How Does Mobile Device Management Work?

Two key components of mobile device management are the MDM server (located in a data center) and an MDM agent (located on the mobile device). Whenever the IT admin wishes to configure and send out policies on any mobile device that’s on a company network, the admin must input the new policy on the MDM server’s management console. Then the server can push the change to the MDM agent, thereby implementing the command to the mobile device through the device’s own built-in APIs. This MDM server-agent connection can also be used by IT departments to deploy and control any apps on the managed devices.

Over time, Mobile Device Management has evolved. Initially, scalability was an issue; however, outdated steps like SIM cards and client-initiated updates have been eliminated by central remote management. Today, the best MDM software has the capability to automatically detect new devices when they connect to the corporate network and apply easily configure policies from one central admin dashboard, which can apply to all devices.

There are a number of Mobile Device Management solutions on the market that provide organizations with the ability to monitor and manage mobile devices. Key features of these solutions include:

  • Device tracking and inventory
  • Mobile management and support
  • Allow or deny applications
  • Passcode enforcement
  • Remote service management
  • Alerts to signal users trying to use jailbreaking to bypass restrictions

Mobile Device Management VS. Enterprise Mobility Management

These days, Mobile Device Management (MDM) is a commonly used term, although it took around ten years from when mobile devices for corporate use started to see a boom in early 2000 for the first MDM solutions to be launched.

As companies began requiring more complex mobility and device management capabilities, Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) emerged as a category of mobile management solutions. EMM covered the whole suite of mobility management solutions (including application, identity and content management), while MDM is focused entirely on mobile devices and their security.

EMM was not suitable for Windows and Mac management as it was explicitly designed to manage the apps and content on mobile devices so, shortly after, Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) was developed, which combines the capabilities of EMM and PC management in one solution. Nowadays, when talking about Mobile Device Management, all three terms (MDM, EMM and UEM) are used, although MDM is still the most commonly used term among end-users.

Advantages Of Using Mobile Device Management

There are many advantages to using MDM software to support your business’s security efforts. Increased security, efficiency, lower costs and more control are particularly persuasive benefits, as well as the fact that an MDM tool enables your organizations to have visibility over their devices. Some specific advantages include:

Remote Management Of Users And Devices

This one might seem like an obvious advantage, but it is not to be overlooked. Having the capability to remotely manage users and the devices they are using is hugely valuable and helps to guarantee the health and security of all mobile devices connected to the network. Remote device access provides organizations with the option to disable any users or applications that are unauthorized, thereby blocking unwelcome access to important data. This can reduce the risk of data leaks and device misuse.

Security Enhancement

The same organization-wide protocols and security procedures that apply to on-premises PCs can extend to all devices, including personal smartphones.  This means no loop in security protocols will be created, as things like identity management, access limitations, password regulation, and blacklists will extend to include mobile devices.

Regulatory Compliance

Compliance initiatives can be tracked and monitored through one unified console when you use Mobile Device Management services. For some businesses, adhering to a regulatory compliance standard is necessary, so having software in place with reporting capabilities that helps you to circumvent unauthorized access to mobile devices and maintain network integrity is valuable.

Take Control Of Device Updates

Putting off software updates is something we have all been guilty of on occasion. But being overly lax about updates could end up jeopardizing the security of the entire network, as falling behind with software updates and patching can leave vulnerabilities for hackers to take advantage of and gain access to confidential information.

Mobile Device Management solutions let admins centrally control and enforce any necessary updates and easily apply system changes across the network. With this function. you can also ensure compliance with government regulations––like the HIPAA patch management requirements for organizations in healthcare, or the GLBA Safeguards Rule for financial institutions––as well as make it easier to keep data protected.

Track Devices

With some mobile device management solutions, you may have the option –– based on the available hardware on the device –– to track devices, ensuring that they remain within specified safe locations. Additionally, MDM solutions can help organizations to keep devices and data secure by setting geo-locks.

Many companies have employees who are field-based and work within a specific, well-defined geographical radius; in these situations, geofencing can be highly useful for blocking rogue access to stolen or lost devices. This works well to support business continuity measures by mitigating the potential for these mobile devices to become the point of failure for information loss.

Make Use Of BYOD

With 67% of employees using their personal devices at work, a strong Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is critical to maintaining security. Mobile Device Management helps enforce these policies by allowing employees to use their own devices, while ensuring that any potential security gaps are covered.

A lot of businesses avoid the use of any devices that are not directly owned by the company. However, many others have made the decision to explore the benefits of BYOD which include the potential for cost-saving and increased productivity. However, the volume of company data stored outside of the traditional security perimeter has increased alongside the power of mobile devices. And with the introduction of legal frameworks that set specified guidelines for collecting and processing individuals’ personal information (like GDPR), as well as ever-evolving security threats, it is more important than ever to maintain solid device security.

In a report by Infoblox, a shocking 80% of IT professionals said they discovered unreported IoT devices connected to their network, with 29% of these uncovering more than 20 devices in total. Organizations should be aware that a dedicated policy, with effective security protocols and management capabilities in place, is a vital security measure for anyone looking to implement BYOD.

Automatically Backup Data

Data that is connected to any of the corporate applications will –– in accordance with the company’s standard backup policies –– be automatically backed up if that device is connected to a mobile device management solution.

Automatic Deletion

Automatic deletion is a highly beneficial feature that MDM solutions provide. Storage space that is being taken up by temporary storage queues which are no longer required and were not deleted by applications are freed up through automatic deletion, which means less clogging and more space available.  

Do You Need Mobile Device Management?

Using mobile devices to view business applications and platforms, join voice or video calls, and access business networks has become standard practice in recent years for many businesses.

If your employees are using mobile devices to access your company’s data or files, then Mobile Device Management solutions are a security investment that you should consider making a priority. Just one lost or stolen mobile device with access to your network could become a major security issue. Without the protection an MDM solution provides, a lost device could lead to private information (like customers’ credit card numbers or personal medical information) being compromised, potentially leading to costly fees and compliance violation-related lawsuits.

Not only are more employees than ever making the shift from working in corporate offices to working from home, but they are also working across a far wider range of devices. Employees will need access to corporate data and applications anywhere and anytime. This creates a unique security risk to corporate data. We’d recommend that organizations with a large percentage of mobile devices, and particularly those working with highly sensitive data, consider Mobile Device Management solutions in the pursuit of protecting their corporate devices.