With the proliferation of devices driven by trends such as bring your own device (BYOD) and flexible working, organisations operating within a fortress, and dictating how employees work and what devices they use, are beginning to look like a scene out of the Middle Ages.
Ensuring an environment that is stable, secure, patched and meets any compliance demand remains a top priority for all organisations. But they don’t want to waste their time deploying expensive, capital-intensive solutions and chasing after employees or partners to ensure their devices meet basic security requirements.
This reality means organisations are increasingly looking towards using a cloud platform for device management.
Roy Illsley, principal analyst at Ovum, says the device management is going through a lot of change as BYOD schemes accelerate. “The concept of a personal device that can do 85-90% of what a corporate device can do looks set to be the way forward,” says Illsley.
More companies are also moving to desktop virtualisation, where updates and patches are pushed out at sign-on time, he says.
“The takeaway is that more cloud solutions are likely; and I also see cloud solutions becoming more automated so that devices are updated at times that do not affect the user,” says Illsley.
Brendon Petsch, IT director at the winter risk management company Gritit, is a huge advocate of cloud technologies, and uses a cloud platform for device management.
Gritit employees are extremely mobile and in the busy winter months, it is vital that the company’s clients can get access to Gritit services throughout the night if necessary so that their premises are cleared of snow and ice, and they can get to work the next morning.
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Organisations such as Gritit want the convenience and efficiency the cloud offers so that their mobile workforce can work efficiently and effectively.
“I think the cloud is key to managing different types of devices, and for people bringing in their own devices to ensure security and simplicity. For us, the cloud is essential and allows us to roll out updates automatically; if we had an on-premise solution I wouldn’t know where to start,” says Petsch.
He says that without the cloud, “it would be a headache to manage individual devices”, and would cause disruption to working schedules for drivers, as they would have to divert from jobs if there was a problem with their devices.
“Before the introduction of a cloud management for devices, if there was a problem, we had half-a-dozen handheld devices in reserve, but a driver would have to pick one up and swap his device, which was inefficient,” says Petsch.
Kurt Frarey, CTO at Norfolk County Council, agrees that a cloud platform for device management is a good option (see box below), but he says the type of solution an organisation uses depends on the environment it is trying to manage. “It very much depends on the type of business you are and the way you work. There are the right tools for different environments,” he says.
The council is currently undergoing a major transition, moving all its 400 servers to a cloud environment.
“All the tools to support the desktops will be cloud-based tools for our corporate environment and for the schools, for which we have deployed technology from CentraStage. Today we use Microsoft management tools delivered via the cloud for our corporate customers and we also use mobile device management software on devices to create a secure wrapper,” says Frarey.
Stephen Hind, senior consultant, cloud solutions, at analyst group DrPete, says that cloud is becoming increasingly popular. “There are fewer barriers as to why you shouldn’t use cloud to manage devices. It is very secure and scalable, but there are some scenarios where an organisation might choose an onsite solution,” he says.
Some organisations have strict regulatory controls that mean they must use an on-premise solution.
“There may be compliance reasons where you have to be in full control of your data. It may depend on compliance laws over privacy and protection of data. In Germany, data protection laws say you must be able to point to a physical hard drive your data is on. In the UK, laws are not as strict but organisations are governed by the Safe Harbor Agreement,” says Hind.
I also see cloud solutions becoming more automated so that devices are updated at times that do not affect the user
Roy Illsley, Ovum
Clive Longbottom, founder of analyst group Quocirca, says choice really now comes down to more of a visceral feel than anything else. “Cloud-based tools have progressed to the point where they are as functional as on-premise. However, many companies still do not like the idea of sharing any information with others or allowing an external to have access into their core systems from outside. As time goes on, this mentality is lessening, but it is difficult for any provider to fight it directly,” he says.
Longbottom says the halfway house for many organisations could be a managed service that comprises different scenarios.
“It can be from all the main management being on-premise but accessed and analysed from afar by the provider through single-tenanted (essentially hosted) systems dedicated to a customer. The majority of managed service providers prefer to move towards a cloud base, though, as this gives them economies of scale plus the capability to optimise their capabilities across shared data,” he says.
Hind says a startup organisation would be advised to go straight to the cloud for device management. “If someone is setting up a new company, they wouldn’t even look at an on-premise solution. The cloud means that there is no capital cost, reduced support cost and a fixed amount of money you pay based on usage,” he says, adding that cloud is “part and parcel of increased productivity”, where organisations have granular control of devices via the cloud.
“Organisations can easily authorise devices on a per-device basis. If a device is lost, it can be locked and changed for a new device very easily, so the user can just log in and go,” says Hind.
Ovum’s Illsley says the upshot of more organisations turning to device management in the cloud is IT departments taking less of the strain of managing devices with valuable money and resources available for other IT projects.
“I think you may see device management as a separate discipline within an IT function, becoming less significant and pushed to either managed server providers or combined with other teams and using more automated approaches,” he says.