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Updated Jun 10, 2024

What Is Mobile Device Management?

Mobile device management software lets you monitor, manage and secure all employee- and company-owned devices. Here's what to look for, along with our top MDM recommendations.

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Andreas Rivera, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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The use of both company-owned and employee-owned mobile devices in the workplace has exploded in the past several years. This trend, along with today’s mobile workforce, helps companies deliver faster, more efficient service to customers and boosts workforce efficiency and productivity.

However, there’s a downside — and it’s a serious one: How does an organization effectively monitor, manage and secure all devices (employee-owned and company-owned) and their disparate applications and operating systems, no matter where they’re deployed and used? That’s where mobile device management (MDM) comes in.

What is MDM?

MDM is a type of security software that company information technology (IT) departments use to monitor, manage and secure all mobile devices used in an organization. MDM is also sometimes called enterprise mobility management (EMM).

Devices that can be managed by MDM and EMM include secure business laptops, smartphones, tablets and other mobile hardware issued by the company or owned by the employee. This software secures apps, policies and permissions across platforms and multiple mobile service providers. It reduces risk to organizations and safeguards their networks and data assets.

MDM and EMM solutions typically include these broad functions:

  • Software distribution
  • Policy management
  • Inventory management
  • Security management
  • Service management for smartphones and media tablets
TipTip
Choose an MDM solution that supports the operating systems you use in your company to ensure you secure your devices from hackers.

Benefits of MDM

Implementing MDM brings numerous benefits to your business, including the following.

  • MDM protects company data: Your data is at risk when employees connect mobile devices to your company database. Crucial data may include proprietary information like price lists, product specifications, unique business processes, financial information and customer payment data. With MDM, your IT administrators can set permissions for specific data sets, ensure employees create strong passwords and restrict sharing. These precautions can prevent data leaks and misuse. 
  • MDM lowers the risk of hacking and malware: With built-in measures and the ability to limit the types of apps employees use on their devices, MDM adds a layer of security for your business. It can help protect your company from malware, phishing and outside hacking threats like ransomware attacks, business email compromise scams and data breaches. [Related article: How to Improve Your Small Business’s Cybersecurity in an Hour]
  • MDM provides automatic device updates and backups: With limited time — and a lack of attention to detail — individual users may not be rigorous about keeping their devices’ software updated and compliant with your company’s data policy. With MDM, you can push regular updates to all work devices, including any necessary settings to ensure compliance with current data policies. MDM can also enable regular data auto-backups for redundancy and protection in case something happens to a work device.
  • MDM enables remote support: When employees travel or work remotely and have issues with their devices, the ability to access and fix the problem remotely is a significant benefit. Without remote support, the employee would have to mail the device to headquarters to have IT fix the problem and then mail it back. MDM’s convenient remote support capabilities ensure cybersecurity while traveling, reduce downtime and boost productivity. 
  • MDM provides device-tracking functionality: Mobile devices are always at risk of loss or theft. MDM allows administrators to track the devices’ locations and set geolocks to secure their data. Lost or stolen devices can be erased remotely.
Did You Know?Did you know
MDM can help prevent cyberattacks on remote workers by controlling system and application permissions and ensuring all downloaded software is properly vetted.

Most important features of MDM

Many MDM and EMM providers are available, with varying feature sets and pricing. However, the following features are essential in any solution you select:

  • Mandatory passwords
  • Password, blocklist and other security policy enforcement
  • Remote configuration and monitoring
  • Remote wipe (to safeguard data on lost or stolen devices)
  • Backup and restore function
  • Data and device encryption
  • Malware detection
  • Restricted access to specific data and apps based on location
  • Virtual private network installation, configuration and management
  • Wi-Fi configuration and management
  • Fully managed, 24/7 threat monitoring 
  • Integration with your existing security and management solutions

While cloud-based services are popular, some companies opt for on-premises MDM or EMM systems. Many solution providers offer multiple options, including on-premises, cloud-based and hybrid systems. As with any critical business purchase, you should research your options thoughtfully.

FYIDid you know
Cloud-based MDM is usually best for small businesses because on-premises solutions require a dedicated employee to manage the system's implementation, monitoring, maintenance and updates.

The best MDM solutions

Consider the following highly regarded MDM and EMM solutions ideal for many businesses.

VMware Workspace ONE UEM 

It’s a good bet that many of your employees use Apple products, so if you’re planning to implement a bring-your-own-device policy, you’ll need MDM that integrates well with the macOS and iOS ecosystem. VMware’s Workspace ONE unified endpoint management (UEM) accomplishes this through integration with Apple Business Manager. The platform makes it easy to push out apps from the App Store to your containerized environment. It also works with Google and Microsoft products.

Ivanti

Ivanti Neurons for MDM is a cloud-based UEM solution that secures your data while allowing you to control any iOS, macOS, Android or Windows-based devices in your network.

Codeproof

Codeproof has multiple features specifically for Android devices, including integration with the Google Play Store for easy enrollment and deployment of business apps. This platform gives you complete control over the devices’ features and components to keep your business data secure and private. Additionally, the console’s GPS tracking features can locate lost devices.

Sophos

Sophos is known for its advanced endpoint protection, which extends to its MDM platform. This allows you to protect your company’s data with the same high level of cybersecurity across all devices. Your organization’s content is safe and encrypted behind the platform’s container, allowing you to wipe devices if you suspect they’ve been stolen or are a security risk.

Miradore

Miradore is one of the few MDM solutions with a free version, so it’s a good choice for small businesses. It supports iOS, Android and Windows and includes security, control, app management and automation. For employees using their own devices, Miradore can erase all corporate data selectively from their phones in case of loss or theft or if you must fire an employee.

Hexnode

Hexnode is an affordable MDM solution that can run either locally or in the cloud. It has “zero-touch enrollment,” which allows devices to be added to the system automatically with certificates. A UEM upgrade is available if you want to add desktops, printers and Internet of Things hardware. [Related article: Is the Internet of Things Bad for Your Business?]

Did You Know?Did you know
Printer security issues can be a weak link in your network. It's crucial to keep your printer's operating system updated and place it on a dedicated network in your office.

Citrix Endpoint Management

This MDM solution from software powerhouse Citrix also includes UEM functionality. It can be run in the cloud or on your own servers. The platform supports Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. 

FYIDid you know
Many MDM products "containerize" the data your business collects, separating it from users' personal data. This feature allows you to manage company files and delete them if necessary while maintaining employee privacy.

Making sense of MDM

MDM technology can sound complicated, but it’s a way to control phones, computers and other devices remotely to maximize convenience and security. If you’re considering deploying MDM technology, determine the data control and access features your business needs and whether a cloud-based system or on-premises solution is best. Evaluate various vendors, comparing their features, controls and prices, and ensure their solutions are compatible with your company’s devices. 

A robust MDM solution will help you install apps, configure VPNs and track lost or stolen devices. To get your team’s buy-in, share the software’s capabilities and benefits, such as ensuring they have the latest configuration settings and security updates.

Steven Melendez contributed to this article.

author image
Andreas Rivera, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
Andreas Rivera is a multimedia wiz who has spent years testing and analyzing the latest B2B software solutions and services. He engages with top programs and tools to determine the best products for businesses across a range of sectors. He also recommends the best practices and strategies for specific business areas. Rivera has a firm understanding of what small business owners need thanks to the time he's spent interviewing countless entrepreneurs and industry experts. He also has hands-on experience in customer acquisition, marketing, PR and thought leadership. He earned a bachelor's in communication and journalism from the University of Utah.
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