In recent years, business users have heavily relied on smartphones, tablets, and laptops for everything from email to banking to shopping. With so much reliance on these devices, businesses and their workforces have come to depend on them for everyday tasks.
As remote work has become essential, mobile device usage has become an integral part of every organization. However, as mobile devices on corporate networks access critical business data, security risk exposure is significant.
For example, a compromised mobile device can turn into a gateway that allows an attacker into enterprise networks. As such, a robust Mobile Device Management (MDM) protocol is critical to mitigate risk and ensure security.
What is MDM?
According to Gartner, MDM or Mobile Device Management solutions are a set of technologies used for managing devices such as smartphones, tablets, and other mobile computing devices. MDM helps organizations control how users access corporate data and applications from any location.
This approach helps IT administrators to remotely secure, control, and enforce policies on mobile devices used in the workplace. An MDM platform aims to help businesses resolve vulnerabilities and protect sensitive information while allowing employees to work effectively.
MDM protocols usually have the following wide-ranging functions:
- Inventory management
- Patch distribution
- Policy management
- Security management
- Service management
- Software distribution
Although MDM primarily focuses on mobile devices, MDM policies must be adapted to include the Internet of Things (IoT).
How Does MDM Work?
MDM protocols leverage software that helps protect enterprise digital assets (like PII or Personally Identifiable Information) by provisioning mobile devices. Companies leverage MDM solutions to apply software, security policies, and processes to mobile devices and toward their use.
MDM protocols also help secure mobile device applications, content, and data. In that sense, we can say that MDM is quite like mobile security solutions. However, the key difference is that MDM is a device-centric approach. On the other hand, Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) and mobile security protocols are user-centric.
Employers following MDM protocols often provide staff with a dedicated work smartphone, tablet, or laptop that's enrolled remotely. In this scenario, these personal devices receive role-based access to corporate data and email over a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection, Global Positioning System (GPS) location services, password-protected apps, and other MDM tools for optimal data security.
MDM solutions monitor user behavior when interacting with business-critical data and sensitive personal data through enrolled devices. By leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), MDM software help protect devices against malware and other cyberattacks.
For example, on company-issued mobile devices, the employer will have more control over monitoring, tracking, and troubleshooting issues or even wipe device data remotely in the event of loss or theft.
What Are MDM Policies?
Enterprise MDM policies aim to help organizations manage mobile devices and govern how they are used. However, before configuring and publishing policies and processes, it's crucial to ask questions like the following:
- Do we need to geo-fence some devices?
- How important is WIFI connectivity?
- How should we encrypt data on the device?
- Should we allow public WIFI connectivity?
- Should we disable the camera by default?
Once IT security teams are satisfied with the answers to these questions, they can enroll the devices on an MDM server and leverage MDM management consoles to remotely configure and manage mobile devices.
IT administrators can add devices manually via email, QR code, or SMS. Organizations can also sign up for vendor-specific device enrollment programs that Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung offer.
What Are the Key Mobile Device Management Features?
There are many MDM solutions in the marketplace, and their solutions vary significantly. However, most have the following key features:
Security and compliance
- Endpoint security
- Enforce device data encryption
- Identity and access management (IAM)
- Manage device configurations and settings
- Policy enforcement
- Remote authentication
- Remotely wipe data on lost and stolen device
- Asset management
- Device health (including battery health, Operating System (OS) version, and warranty information)
- Device reporting
- Real-time automatic visibility into a device inventory
- Application configuration
- Application management and distribution
- Device management from a centralized console
- Device provisioning
What Are the Benefits of Using MDM?
It's no secret that mobile devices are often lost or stolen. People often leave them on trains, buses, restaurants, and public places. This puts enterprises and institutions at risk of a data breach. Whenever something like this happens, you will wish that you had a robust MDM program.
Complete Control Over Corporate Devices
When a variety of mobile devices and OSes are used, it may be challenging to maintain a single view of the data. With MDM, your organization has greater visibility into its devices as the software collects valuable information from managed devices such as iOS, macOS, Android, Windows Phone, and others.
Knowing what devices are in use and their security levels make it easier to identify and manage security risks. MDM lets you configure devices remotely, remove them on schedule, update them, and seamlessly manage updates. If a user leaves the company, you can delete all business-related data from the device.
Device and Data Security
When your employees have access to your company's network via mobile devices, it puts your corporate data at risk. Your IT administrators should be able to control what they do with sensitive data. They should also be able to create strong passwords and limit how much data they share. MDM software helps them do these things.
Device Backup and Updates
A lack of time or attention often leads to poor security practices. For example, if employees forget to update their mobile phones, they could lose access to important information. In addition, if employees lose their smartphones, they will no longer have access to essential documents.
To avoid these problems, companies should implement an MDM solution. MDM allows IT administrators to manage all aspects of employees' smartphones and tablets. By doing so, they can help prevent lost phones and protect against potential security breaches. IT administrators can also schedule and backup data seamlessly and remotely.
Operating by IT standards and guidelines is essential to any organization, but ensuring that all devices are compliant can be difficult. With MDM, managing compliance initiatives from one unified console enables better protection while operating within legal requirements.
Increase Efficiency and Lower Costs
With MDM, your organization can manage every aspect of device management from a single platform, including automating device enrollment and configuration, which saves time and ultimately reduces costs. When managing multiple devices, automation brings significant benefits—devices are configured faster, and human error is reduced.
MDM also helps improve employee productivity when end users do not have to visit the IT department or configure devices themselves. Instead, staff receives pre-configured devices and access to needed apps and data from day one.
Remote Management and Support
When employees are traveling or working from home and have a problem with an application, they can contact the company's help desk via phone or email. They can also send screenshots of the issue to the help desk so that the help desk can diagnose the problem and provide them with instructions on how to resolve it.
With MDM, employees can connect to their work applications remotely and troubleshoot issues without physically bringing their devices into the office.
What Are the Limitations of Using MDM?
Although MDM helps find solutions to a whole host of enterprise challenges, lack of expertise and poor implantation can lead to significant bottlenecks.
Complexity and Continuous Management
If you're managing multiple employees, devices, OSes, apps, and tools, things get complicated quickly. There's a reason MDM is principally a part of Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM). It requires an IT team with specialized expertise and extensive history to get it right. More often than not, small and medium-sized businesses simply can’t afford to do so on an ongoing basis.
Every company is unique, so every implementation of MDM needs to be customized to fit each organization’s particular requirements.
A lack of expertise can lead to higher implementation costs.
Establish a BYOD Policy
MDM starts with establishing a robust Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. A BYOD policy should be clear about what devices can and cannot access corporate information. Employees must understand that they may only access work-related data on approved mobile devices. You can avoid potential security issues by being open and honest about what devices are allowed.
MDM Best Practices
Whether you’re following a cloud- or on-premises data center-based model, an MDM solution should allow an organization to view endpoints, users, and every aspect of the mobile environment.
An effective mobile device management software solution should help your organization:
- Improve efficiency
- Increase production
- Increase security
- Make MDM straightforward
- Save time and money
Critical MDM best practices include:
- Automated reports: be sure the reporting and management tool consolidates all enrolled devices and associated information into easy-to-follow reports. Daily updates should generate automatically and without manual input.
- Easy search: a cloud-based solution should allow users to search for anything and anything. Users should be able to access their devices, integrations, applications, reports, and secure documents easily.
- Automatic updates: beyond the benefits of instant access offered by MDM solutions, there should be no hardware to purchase, install or maintain—and no associated fees. The platform should automatically update with new features at a company's disposal over the air.
As the cybersecurity threats on mobile devices grow exponentially and increasingly sophisticated, mobile device management is no longer optional. MDM is now critical to a safe, efficient, and productive workforce.