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Where the device hits the network – a mobile device management update

As business becomes increasingly mobile, we look at the latest trends in mobile device management to give businesses the edge

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Enterprises have become much more mobile over the past decade. In fact, mobility has fast become a major priority, both in terms of customer and stakeholder engagement and also worker mobility.

According to a report by the Radicati Group, global revenues for the enterprise mobility management (EMM) market will total over $1.8bn by year-end 2017. This figure will grow to over $3.3bn by year-end 2021. This represents an average annual growth rate of 18% in the next four years.

The EMEA market for EMM software will grow from $565.8m in 2017 to $839.9m in 2021 at a CAGR of 8.2% according to analyst firm IDC (Enterprise mobility management software forecast, 2017–2021).

On the bring your own device (BYOD) front, Forrester Research reports that 70% of information workers use a smartphone at least weekly at work, with 49% choosing the device themselves as opposed to following a company-approved list or using a company-issued phone (Best practices for securing and empowering a mobile workforce).

To stay on top of your mobile strategy, organisations should be aware of a number of trends.

One of the most impactful trends in enterprise mobility management is the concept of device trust, which means providing a certificate of trust for the devices used, says Mike Paiko, director of enterprise mobility at Okta.

When a cloud app, such as Box or Google Suite, contains highly sensitive information, IT leaders need to ensure the device used to access that app is managed and meets the company’s security standards. These devices may include desktops, laptops, or mobile phones.  

Mobility management tool

Users have the opportunity to enrol their device into their mobility management tool, and once the device becomes “trusted”, the user will have access to the application. “This is a great security process to ensure users only use managed devices to access sensitive corporate apps,” he says.

Trust also plays a part in BYOD. The workforce is increasingly being their own devices, more so among third party contractors or other temporary workers. 

“Workers would probably prefer not to carry two phones; however, they still do because they are reluctant to have their employer access personal info,” says Mark Lorion, president and general manager at Apperian. Mobile device management (MDM) suppliers are responding to this with reversed enrolment flows, where a user can download the initial mobile portal without enrolling their device for control by their employer. “However, if the user wants access to corporate data, they will need to enrol their device in management,” he says.

Mobiles on the edge

One trend which is already showing signs of exerting real influence when it comes to mobile device management is edge computing, according to Neil Bramley, B2B client solutions business unit director of Northern Europe at Toshiba. This is especially so as mobiles generate evermore data.

“In an increasingly mobile professional landscape, the ability to process data at the edge of the network and close to its originating source is invaluable. By minimising the strain on cloud storage services, organisations can ensure faster operations through reduced latency, only sending the most relevant data to the cloud,” he says.

By spreading the load in this way, bottlenecks are greatly reduced, if not eliminated, while at the same time businesses can benefit from the additional advantages of improving their quality of service and reducing costs, adds Bramley.

The rise of IoT

One of the most important, yet least talked-about developments, in MDM is what is meant when talking about “devices”.

The rise of connected devices and the internet of things (IoT) might not, at first, seem relevant to IT managers for whom MDM means struggling to bring Shadow IT into the corporate fold. But connected devices present greater risks to organisations, not least because they are generally so poorly-secured, as seen with the Mirai attacks from last year onwards, says James Plouffe, lead solutions architect, at MobileIron.

“The challenge for MDM/EMM providers is twofold: first, to educate users about the risks of unsecured connected devices; and second, to integrate these devices into their existing MDM platforms and tools, so that IT managers have complete visibility of every machine that's connecting to their corporate network,” he says

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This is echoed by Suneil Sastri, director of product marketing at Soti. He says the reason device management has taken such a sharp evolution is that it is no longer just about obtaining information from a mobile device.

“Everything that can be connected will be connected. That’s the somewhat dog-eared maxim for the future of tech,” he says. “Currently, around 23 billion ‘things’ are currently connected to the world’s various communication networks and more are joining at breakneck speed. Mobile device management has advanced to encompass this innovation and companies must take advantage of this.”

Sastri says IoT brings new business challenges around scale, interoperability, security and the management of devices and endpoints.

“The adoption of IoT is set to continue, especially with industrial IoT devices. Businesses need to ensure they have a solid central platform to ensure they don’t become lost in a web of connected devices,” he says.

MDM and GDPR

In the near future, privacy and sensitivity around personal data and personally identifiable information (PII) will only continue to increase, as new regulations, such as GDPR, are passed and as consumers and the general public become more aware of how vulnerable their information is.

Lorian says an example of this would be the fallout from the September 2017 Equifax breach. “Organisations will need to take measures to only control what needs to be managed – just corporate data and just corporate assets. Typically, this will be achieved with approaches that do not require enrolling in device management, especially for personally owned devices.”

Organisations may also need to deploy tools that assist with data protection but also minimise data transferred to and held on the device. There will be a greater emphasis on mandating MDM to remove corporate data on a device if it is lost or stolen as well as using encryption to protect confidential data.

Rich Campagna, CEO at cloud and mobile security company Bitglass, says the mobile security space is ripe for innovation and we’ll likely see tools evolve to meet the needs and changes in IT. “One example is the ability to selectively wipe corporate information from a BYOD. From an employee privacy perspective, this means their phone is never at risk of having personal data removed without consent.”

Adapting to new trends

The latest trends in MDM are going to have an impact on enterprises and having a coherent security strategy is the single most important factor, says Plouffe. But, he adds, this is missing in so many user organisations.

“An effective security policy starts with organisations classifying their assets, identifying the risks to those assets, and defining their risk tolerance,” he says. “This will allow them to determine what risks they need to mitigate and which they may choose to accept. For example, part of this exercise may include detailing which devices are corporately owned and loaned to employees and what level of access each employee in the organisation is afforded.”

Paiko says there needs to be a balance between security and experience because if a user encounters too much friction accessing their apps, they’ll go around the security control, and ultimately will not realise the productivity benefits. He points to a recent Google report that highlights that 90% of smartphone users have used their phone to make progress toward a long-term goal or a multi-step process while “out and about”.

“Each of these ‘micro-moments’ lasts an average of 70 seconds, and these micro-moments are repeated dozens and dozens of times per day,” he says. “Without a great user experience, these highly productive micro-moments would not be possible.”

Broadening the scope of MDM

Today an employee can buy a smartphone, enrol it in MDM management, and be up and running with email and their corporate apps within 10 to 15 minutes – yet, they cannot get the same experience with a laptop, says Paiko. He adds that in the next 12-18 months, with Apple and Microsoft enhancing the MDM support in Mac OS X and Windows 10 respectively, more organisations will turn to MDM to manage third-party workers, such as contractors and business partners, and employee PCs.

“That said, with the current desktop OS MDM limitations and the existing need for group policies, it may take longer than 18 to 24 months for MDM to successfully manage the bulk of traditional PCs,” he says.

It is also important to note the consumerisation of IT is now driving what devices are being used in the enterprise. Perhaps the best way to keep ahead of the trends in MDM in the enterprise is to keep an eye one what consumers are buying today; they may well be bringing it into the enterprise tomorrow.

This was last published in September 2017

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