Buyer’s guide to smartphone management

Today's IT managers support an increasingly decentralised and mobile workforce - one with multiple segments of workers, each with their own unique set of needs.

Today's IT managers support an increasingly decentralised and mobile workforce - one with multiple segments of workers, each with their own unique set of needs.

IT is struggling to keep pace with a twofold challenge: mobile device management and security.

Mobility brings together many roles traditionally siloed within IT, including telecoms, client services, service desks, security and risk management, application development, and sourcing and supplier management. But because mobile device management and security have traditionally remained under the responsibility of separate roles, mismatched policies can easily lead to data security breaches and operational inefficiencies. Smartphones were the number one concern facing enterprise IT security sourcing and services decision-makers, according to Forrester's most recent IT security survey, even beating Web 2.0 applications, cloud computing, and virtualisation


Adding support for non-BlackBerry devices - such as iPhone, iPad, and Android-based smartphones - and personally owned devices has led many IT managers to explore third-party mobile device management

The prevalence of multi-OS mobile strategies, coupled with support for personally-owned smartphones, is forcing smartphone management suppliers to focus on "good enough" support that satisfies a broad range of devices. This is in stark contrast to PC management solutions, which go extremely deep from a functionality perspective, but only because they are largely Windows-centric.

Look for most suppliers to add support over the next year for the top three demanded operating systems: BlackBerry, iOS, and Android. But it certainly won't end there. Expect a trickle-down effect to the legacy Windows Mobile and Palm OS devices that are so widely deployed today, in addition to the promising, yet still largely unproven, webOS, Windows Phone 7, and MeeGo systems from HP, Microsoft, and Nokia/Intel, respectively.

The mobile device management and security supplier landscape is incredibly diverse, but there are some notable solutions worth evaluating.


For firms that have already embraced a multi-platform strategy, the two leading and very well established leaders in this market are Good Technology and Sybase.

Between them they boast more than 30,000 enterprise customers worldwide, and both fared extremely well in the most recent Forrester Wave™ evaluation of mobile device management solutions.

Sybase's Afaria and Good Technology's Good for Enterprise products support most mobile operating systems, including iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Windows Embedded CE, Symbian, and Palm OS. Afaria also supports BlackBerry and Win32 desktops and laptops, while GFE also supports webOS.


Four comparatively smaller companies that are coming on strong in the smartphone management space are BoxTone, MobileIron, Trust Digital, and Zenprise. Between the four, Forrester estimates that they have fewer than 1,000 enterprise customers but an impressive number of active proofs-of-concept (POCs), particularly in heavily-regulated industries such as healthcare, financial services, public sector, and manufacturing.

  • BoxTone, a mobile service management product, used to be BlackBerry-centric but can now proactively identify issues across your fleet of BlackBerry and non-BlackBerry devices.
  • MobileIron came out of stealth mode fewer than 12 months ago, but its Virtual Smartphone Platform now supports BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iOS, Symbian, and webOS - and will soon support Android.
  • Trust Digital, which has been around for almost 10 years and has historically served as a mobile security company, was recently acquired by McAfee. Trust Digital's Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) was among the first to support the iPhone and now manages and secures iOS, webOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Android.
  • The Zenprise Device Manager enables IT to proactively monitor, manage, and secure BlackBerry, iOS, webOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Android devices.

These four suppliers are worth including on the shortlist for any firm with plans to embrace a multiplatform mobile strategy.


AirWatch not only supports mobile device management but WLAN management as well. Motorola's MSP solution can manage Motorola smartphones in addition to peripheral devices such as cash registers, scanners, RFID readers, printers, signature capture pads, and kiosks.

SOTI's MobiControl supports the device management functionality most IT managers would expect, in addition to location-based services for asset tracking, and boasts an impressive list of 80,000 customers across 120 countries.

Wavelink's Avalanche Suite supports more than 12,000 customers spanning 85 countries.

IT should also consider point solutions from Tangoe - which acquired mobile device management supplier InterNoded last year; Capricode; Excitor; FancyFon; Fromdistance; InnoPath; Odyssey; Red Bend Software; Smith Micro; Symantec; and ubitexx.

Finally, firms should turn to a service provider if they lack the deep technical expertise or feel mobile device management isn't strategic. IT departments should also explore managed mobility services if the time frame for deploying a behind-the-firewall management solution is too long, costs are too high, or the infrastructure required is too complex. Most tier one mobile operators offer mobile device management as a managed service, and these services are often white-labelled from Sybase and Mformation.

Core functions of smartphone management products

Most smartphone management products have a core set of functions consisting of:

  • Configuration management - Configuration management tools help the administration and control of device settings. IT can dictate different security, application, and configuration policies for different workforce segments.
  • Security management - Top of the list is enforcing a strong password policy, such as Pins and passwords that cannot be brute-force attacked by pulling from a dictionary - devices that automatically lock after 15 to 30 minutes of non-use, and devices that automatically wipe after 10 unsuccessful authentication attempts. Security and risk managers also seek encryption and remote lock/wipe capabilities.
  • Central console - A central, often web-based console is essential to all smartphone management solutions. It allows mobility managers to view reports and access individual tasks for smartphone management.
  • Over-the-air (OTA) intelligence, troubleshooting, and support - Scheduled or event-based actions and real-time monitoring, logging, and web reports all help to enable service desk staff to better manage their mobile environments. In some instances, they can help IT to identify issues before users even notice.
  • Asset management and reporting - It is imperative that IT managers have the ability to track and provide effective reporting for all assets and software across the business. This functionality provides in-depth reporting on the types of devices, operating systems, and software running in your mobile environment.
  • Software management - Smartphones are primarily used by information workers for wireless e-mail, contacts, calendars and, often, personal web browsing. However, as mobility cascades down the corporate pyramid and task-based workers are granted access, the ability to push new applications out in the field becomes crucial. IT managers should look for remote software distribution and updates, white-listing and blacklisting, and silent installation.
  • Scalability - The rate of device adoption will increase as firms continue to recover from the global recession and IT and telecom spending increases. Infrastructure and operations teams should anticipate this growth by embracing a solution or service that can scale with their business. Should any concerns remain, speak with reference customers who are willing to share their experiences and lessons learned.

This is an excerpt from the Market overview: smartphone management report by Benjamin Gray, senior analyst at Forrester Research serving infrastructure and operations professionals. Benjamin Gray's blogs >>

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