Mobile device management: Getting started

Expect a moving target, practitioners say, and focus on a few key areas.

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The need for remote wiping has happened a few times, Carmody says.

"In those cases all data is lost," she explains. Jacobs works hard to educate the user population about its corporate policy and conditions governing end-user device use. "We also go the extra step and educate end-users about backing up and protecting their personal data" in case it has to be remote-wiped someday, Carmody says.

Some MDM tools allow devices to store critical business data in a special, secure "container," says Chris Hazelton, an analyst with The 451 Group. Business data is not retrievable outside of the container, and can only be accessed through rich passwords and other access protocols, making it much more secure. It can also be removed remotely by the business if the device is lost or stolen, without removing a user's photos, contacts and other personal information.

Both Edelman and SAP use this technique; Edelman uses AirWatch to perform selective wiping of enterprise data, while SAP uses its own Afaria application, which can wipe just the corporate data and leave the personal information alone, according to Bussmann.

One of the biggest support challenges for Edelman's IT team, Iatonna says, is when employees do get permission to use personal iPads or iPhones for their jobs. The difficulty then becomes educating users that their personal photos, emails and other data could be lost in the event a remote wipe is needed on those devices.

"You have to make sure that the level of support is defined so that you are not responsible for personal data loss," Iatonna explains. "The way that we've tried to mitigate that is that if you want Edelman data on your personal device you have to agree to have the MDM software installed on it and you need [to sign] a waiver as well."

Edelman employees weren't used to that level of control and they were uncomfortable with it because it involved their personal devices, he says. "People said, 'Well it's my phone and you can't expect me to enter a password and have a screen lock after five minutes.' It was always discussions like that."

That meant getting users to come around to accepting a new sensitivity about the data on their phones, he says. "It's a balance of privacy versus the company's security. People are very unaware of the risks that are posed with the smartphones right now," including hacking, data capture and other security threats with smartphones. Users are typically not thinking about those kinds of risks when they use the devices.

Remote wiping and similar security measures are also used at Carfax, Matthews says, and employees are notified that data wipes can be performed if the devices are lost, stolen or used inappropriately. At the same time, he says, the company also wants to give its workers some freedom to use their devices responsibly.

For instance, Carfax allows employees to use the devices for non-work-related things like watching videos on the road, he said. "People will definitely do the right thing" and not abuse their freedoms with inappropriate behavior and usage, he says. "You just need to give them some guidelines and that's what we've done so far."

A moving target

One of the biggest pain points when it comes to MDM is time pressure because, with mobile devices, there is always something new and different to cope with, says SAP's Bussmann. And there can be a lot of need for IT support.

When SAP began its mobile deployment project in 2010, demand from workers was already high, starting with the first controlled deployment of 1,500 devices, he explains. To cope with this, the company decided to provide the initial user support for those first devices via Web 2.0 using wikis and online help portals. This was a method to reduce demands on the IT teams and give users the help they needed on demand, he said.

It was just the right approach.

"We had only two or three months to enable those devices so we didn't have time for setting up traditional support," Bussmann says. "You look at the Apple devices. There's no big menu there to operate them; they're very intuitive. This approach is similar to that."

At first, Bussmann admits, he wasn't sure that users would accept this non-traditional help system. "To be honest, I told my guys that I'm not sure the users are going to go for that. But there's been a change of user behavior, definitely."

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