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Mobile computing devices are now regarded as an essential business tool.

Mobile computing devices such as tablets and smartphones have increased in both power and affordability over the years. According to market research company Forrester, 66% of employees now use two or more devices at work and such devices deliver huge benefits in terms of flexible working and staff productivity thanks to the ability to access business systems wherever they are.

But this popularity in business use isn’t without its dangers. Accessing potentially confidential business data on a device that could easily be left on a train or be exposed to interception via public WiFi hotspots raises all kinds of security and compliance concerns.

Many businesses now allow their staff to use their own personal devices for work through bring your own device (BYOD) policies, with 54% of organisations now focussed on developing a comprehensive policy to support employees bringing their own devices. However, this raises even more issues in terms of keeping business and private data separate, and what happens when someone leaves the company.

As an answer to many of these concerns, more and more businesses are turning to the use of mobile device management (MDM), which can help both control and secure mobile devices.

Security and compliance

Basic data security should be second nature by now, but people are still going to make errors and in doing so, may unwittingly expose sensitive data to risk. Legislations such as MiFID II and GDPR impose restrictions on how data should be stored and processed, so as a starting point, businesses need to make sure they can comply with the stipulations contained in these regulations.

But how can mobile device management help with the potential threats posed by your own workforce? Any good MDM solution will allow control over which applications are able to access business data, creating a firewall between business and personal areas of a device.

Mobile Device Management Explained - Mobile SecurityIt’s also possible to create a private app store so that only applications approved for use within the business can be used on the device. Administrators can also install or remove apps remotely so that the setup and provisioning of new devices are simplified and software can be kept up to date with security and other patches. It’s also possible to restrict the sharing of data between apps so that only approved business software is used to process sensitive data.

Many firms choose to set up a secure hub for content so that files can be safely accessed. This can also help to enforce policies such as ensuring that a VPN solution is used so that data isn’t put a risk when accessed from unfamiliar networks.

If a device is lost or stolen, an MDM solution can allow it to be locked or wiped remotely so that sensitive information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Devices and operating systems

If you’re supplying mobile devices to your staff, you may be able to restrict their choice of device and operating system (OS), making management easier. In BYOD setups, however, your mobile device management platform will need to cope with a range of different devices and operating systems.

When choosing a mobile device management platform, it’s key that you first consider which devices you are already using, and ensure that your chosen platform is going to be able to work with all of them. You don’t want to end up with the headache of having multiple different solutions to look after.

No matter how many different device and operating systems your business has, a good mobile device management solution will be able to manage them all. MaaS360, for example, is a cloud-based product which allows for the management of BYOD and business-issued devices including tablets, smartphones and operating systems.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

As with other areas of computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence are also starting to have an impact on the world of mobile device management, helping to recognise patterns of device usage and being able to identify when something abnormal is happening.

Mobile Device Management Explained - AIFor example, if a device suddenly signs in from an unfamiliar geographical location or at an unusual time of day, this may be an indication that it has been stolen or that its login credentials have been compromised.

The use of AI can flag up events like this so that further investigation can be carried out in order to determine the cause. As technology progresses, the way the user interacts with the device can be used to detect suspicious activity.

Choosing a mobile device management solution

By now you shouldn’t need to have the benefits of mobile device management explained, but how do you go about selecting the best solution for your business? The first thing, as we said above, is to audit the devices that you already have. Find out what hardware and software are in use and what it is being used for.

Secondly, we suggest you choose a solution provider that will work with you to provide a solution that meets your business needs. Look for a system that will allow you to carry out comprehensive testing on a range of devices to see how they interact with the system portal. Look at what training and support are available too. Ideally, mobile device management systems should be easy and intuitive to use, but you need to ensure that the people who will be administering the system have an in-depth knowledge as to how it operates.

Look at what reporting is available. If you are dealing with sensitive data, you need to be alerted quickly if there are any potential security issues. But you also need in-depth reporting relating to the use of data and compliance, together with any potential risks such as out of date operating systems or apps.

You need to be able to control which apps are used to access business data and block or limit access to non-approved software. It’s also useful to be able to update systems remotely in order to keep them in line with policy. Finally, look at how the solution works with any existing solutions that you may be using – for example Samsung Knox or Apple Device Enrolment Programme.

As you can see, there’s a great deal to think about when selecting a mobile device management solution. Many options are available and while they will all offer basic features such as the ability to wipe devices remotely and control which apps are used, others will have features that address specific business needs. It’s therefore worth spending time exploring the different options so you can find a solution that addresses your business needs and current device inventory.