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Grow Your Business Technology

Mobile Device Management: What You Need to Know

Mobile Device Management: What You Need to Know
Credit: TATSIANAMA/Shutterstock

No matter what industry you're in, your business collects, transmits and accesses large amounts of data every single day, often across multiple devices. The sophistication of today's technology — and the ease with which it can be hacked — means that your data can and should be safely guarded so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

"Nearly all businesses rely on information systems to manage company, customer and employee data," said Tim Arnold, IT manager at staffing firm Kavaliro. "It's critical to have a regularly updated data-management strategy to" make sure only those who should have access can view sensitive items.

Hardwired internal data-management systems of the past made it much easier to restrict the visibility of company data. But the continual shift toward mobile and cloud computing for businesses means that data is more exposed than ever. For this reason, mobile device management (MDM) software is becoming increasingly popular among businesses that want to keep their data under control. [10 Ways to Prevent a Data Security Breach]

"Traditionally, organizations treated their data like it existed inside walls, with most [data] use and communications focused on the assumption that this is all happening on corporate-owned and trusted devices," said Jim Haviland, chief strategy officer of enterprise mobility solutions provider Vox Mobile. "With mobility, including BYOD, it is common to build a security posture assuming that the devices are not trusted and to work towards controlling access to information. With an MDM program in place, companies can have a better understanding of what parts of their data and document stores are truly sensitive or valuable, and what data requires less scrutiny."

Arnold agreed that mobile devices make MDM necessary. "With the ubiquity of mobile devices today, businesses essentially have easily concealable and easily lost computers entering and leaving their networks every day," Arnold said. "Without appropriate MDM solutions, leaks are bound to happen, whether intentional or not."

MDM solutions control and protect the data and configuration settings for any mobile device in your network, whether it's a personal or company-owned device. Every business has different data-management needs, so it's important to select a solution that's right for your business. Doing your research ahead of time and knowing some basic facts about your staff's data use will help you make the right choice.

"A data management solution is only as useful as [how well] it is implemented, so take the time to do full diligence and ask yourself how it fits with your practices," Arnold told Business News Daily. "For example, [with BYOD], what happens when an employee is terminated? Do you simply shut off access to their systems and hope any saved or cached data is ignored? Or do you wipe the device of business data entirely? How do you separate business data from personal data? These are the types of questions you need to be asking before implementing a solution, and continually reviewing as needs change."

Haviland advised considering the following three factors when looking for an MDM solution:

Architecture: While cloud services and infrastructure are rising in popularity, many organizations still prefer to have systems running in their own data centers, Haviland said. Most of the leading MDM solutions offer options for cloud or on-premise deployments, and some have hybrid models. If you have preferences or requirements about where your data and servers will be located, you will want to know both the current and future options available from the solutions you're considering.

Direction: Data management solutions are constantly being updated, revised and enhanced. It is important to understand where your MDM solution is headed strategically. Haviland noted that many providers have mobile device management as a small part of their overall offerings, and may have added some other functionalities like managing or editing documents, controlling or securing enterprise apps, integrating with other security solutions, or helping to control wireless costs. This has created a complex web of competitors and partners in which an enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution, as analysts refer to it, may have capabilities to support a function like collaboration, but also integrate with other collaboration solutions. Take the time to understand where your MDM provider is focusing its development efforts so you can be sure it will suit both your current and future needs.

Integration: If you have made significant investments in internal applications or document management, you want to find an MDM solution that can help you integrate your security and management controls and workflows, Haviland said. You can enhance both your security and efficiency with a solution that allows you to control and monitor systems from a single point.

Arnold shared a reminder that the actual technology you choose is just one part of a successful data-management strategy. Everyone in your company should know about and enforce internal data-security standards.

"A data management solution is much more than just how the data is stored, but arguably the more important piece of the policies, practices and procedures to protect and maintain that data," Arnold said.

Originally published on Business News Daily

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the managing editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.