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Create a Mobile Workforce – The Secure Way

20 Oct 2016

 

The purpose of a mobile strategy is to enable you to work seamlessly whilst away from your usual place of work. This includes enabling access to applications, data and systems which are essential for the functioning of your business. Sounds like a simple concept, but there is a trade-off. The more mobile you (and your data) are, the greater the risk to your hardware, software and business information.

 

I’m sure most people have a lost a phone or laptop. Other than the cost of replacing the device, there is the greater issue of a potential leak of the information contained on it. Given how connected the average user is, a lot of personal, private and confidential data could be obtained from that lost device.

 

So how do businesses provide access to data and systems to their mobile users without risking the information which is accessible through their hardware?

 

The first step in forming a mobility strategy is to understand the legal and regulatory frameworks relevant to your business. My recent post on data protection will go some way in helping you understand the potential security risks and laws which are relevant to almost every business.

 

The terminology 

 

The next stage is to understand some of the common mobility terminology:

  • Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) – the approach a business takes in enabling its workforce to use smartphones and tablets securely. A good mobility strategy should manage any security concerns, whilst allowing teams to work productively when away from their usual place of work.

  • Mobile Device Management (MDM) – the software which enables your EMM strategy, allowing a business to enforce security policies, roll out configurations and provide secure access to data and systems. The software can provide the business with varying levels of control over user devices.

  • Mobile Application Management (MAM) – more narrow than general MDM, MAM is specifically designed to secure and control access and actions of applications installed on the devices. This may include application monitoring, updates, issues and removal. MAM can also scan apps and warn users of violations which are contrary to business policies.

  • Mobile Content Management (MCM) – Sometimes referred to as Mobile Information Management (MIM), focuses on accessing business documents securely through authentication, authorisation, and access. Often, the MCM allows secure access to data repositories through a single application on a user’s device. Administrators can grant, limit or restrict access to certain areas or documents contained within that repository.

  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – A frequent request in businesses. Users often wish to streamline their hardware use, and avoid carrying a personal and corporate device. Businesses therefore allow personal devices to access business data and systems through implementing a robust EMM strategy and clear user policies.

  • Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) – In contrast, this is where the business provides the hardware to the user, who in turn can use it as a personal device. As with BYOD, similar EMM strategy and policies will apply, however the user often has less of a say on how that device is managed by the business, with the device being corporately owned.

 

As you come to understand how an EMM strategy can support a productive and mobile workforce, you can begin to outline the policies and processes which meet your organisation’s aims and attitudes to risks. This may include hardware insurance and replacements, user types your business is willing to support, and the processes which must be carried out in the event a device is lost or stolen.

 

Finally, understand the features present in an MDM (or other management) suite, and how to find the right solution(s) for your business. You will note that some of the features listed below are designed to secure the device or restrict the user, and others are designed to facilitate the organisation’s management of devices and increase a user’s productivity. Common MDM features therefore include:

  • Device inventory management and asset tracking

  • Remote device locking, and partial or full data wipe and reset

  • Passcode enforcement and removal

  • Pushing out application and software updates

  • Device locator and messaging / notification systems

  • Roll out of configurations (such as WiFi access details)

 

The MDM solutions 

 

There are many reputable solutions on the market (almost too many). The rate at which existing solutions are developed and new products are released are in line with many other progressing technologies.

 

Identifying the number and types of devices may help you quickly rule out some of the solutions out there. Most solutions support the COPE and BYOD models, including mobile and tablet support (with some also supporting laptops and PCs, or have this development in the pipeline). Every solution is unique in terms of usability, support levels and integration with your existing systems. Further considerations include:

  • The way in which the solution is provided to you (hosted or on-premise)

  • The number of devices you and your workforce are comfortable carrying

  • The level of control you require over devices

  • The way in which your current network and IT systems are configured, and how a solution can communicate with business directories and other IT services.

Since MDM solutions are so widely reviewed and compared online, it doesn’t make sense to go through the pros, cons and pricing of all the solutions out there (particularly given the rate the features are developing). However, as mentioned above, every business has their own requirements. Reviews and comparisons are helpful, but ultimately developing your mobility strategy will ensure you pick a solution that fits your business needs. PCMagazine and TechRadar are two sources that provide up to date comparisons of some of the main MDM solutions, and are a good starting point for businesses looking to implement a solution for the first time.

 

The EMM strategy 

 

Businesses should take a very systematic approach when implementing an EMM strategy and MDM solution. Without doing so, it is difficult to create a comprehensive system that meets immediate requirements, long term aims, and potential technical and security challenges. The EMM strategy should be seen as an enabler of a productive business and workforce. The MDM solution is the product which enables you to achieve this securely.

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