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What is mobile device management (MDM)? Best practices and components

What is mobile device management (MDM)?

Mobile device management refers to the administration of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops through a single console. It involves managing and protecting devices through the process of enrollment, inventory and configuration. MDM allows organizations to remotely monitor and control devices while giving users continuous access to company resources.


Why is mobile device management important?

Managing endpoints means managing mobile devices. MDM is a critical aspect of an organization’s security posture, especially in today’s mobile-centric work environment. Most organizations have in place a documented strategy for managing traditional on-premises servers and computers that connect to the network, but because mobile devices are built differently and used differently, they require a different strategy.

Mobile devices vary widely in terms of device type, configuration, and usage scenarios, making their management complex. Some users may use corporate-owned devices solely for work purposes, while others may use personal devices for both work and personal activities. Each of these scenarios requires different configurations and life cycle management processes.

Most smartphones and tablets lack built-in protection against malicious apps or cyberattacks. Because users often don’t pay close attention to how they are connecting, whether it be a public Wi-Fi connection or a Wi-Fi Pineapple device, it’s not difficult for bad actors to get hold of sensitive data. Additionally, mobile devices are prone to loss or theft, and their simple passcode protections can be easily bypassed, leaving any corporate data stored on the device at risk.

Beyond these threats, managing a wide range of device types and versions, each running different operating systems and applications, makes it easier for vulnerabilities to go undetected. Without a comprehensive mobile device strategy, organizations are exposed to numerous security threats.


How does mobile device management work?

MDM software works by centralizing the management and control of mobile devices, enabling organizations to enforce policies, ensure security, and streamline administrative tasks related to mobile device usage within the organization.

Device enrollment
The process begins with enrolling mobile devices onto the organization's MDM system. This can be done manually by the user or automatically through an enrollment process initiated by the IT department. During enrollment, the device establishes a secure connection with the MDM server.

Device configuration
Once enrolled, the system allows administrators to configure settings on the devices. This includes setting up email accounts, Wi-Fi networks, VPN connections, and applying security policies such as requiring passcodes, enforcing encryption, and restricting access to certain apps or features.

Application management
IT administrators then distribute, update and manage applications on the enrolled devices. This can include pushing out company-approved apps, updating devices with the necessary patches and revoking access to unauthorized or outdated applications.

Endpoint security
Mobile security is strengthened through protection measures like remote locking or wiping of lost or stolen devices, encryption of sensitive data and early threat detection.

Compliance monitoring
Mobile device management systems provide tools for monitoring device usage, tracking compliance with organizational policies and regulatory requirements, and generating reports on device status, security incidents, and usage patterns.

Remote support
In case of technical issues, IT administrators can remotely access devices to troubleshoot problems, install updates, or provide assistance to users.

How does mobile device management work?

BYOD and mobile device management

With the rise of remote work and bring your own device (BYOD) policies, employees use a wide range of personal devices for work, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. While this can lead to greater access and productivity, BYOD introduces risk. Personal devices may not adhere to the same security standards as company-owned devices, creating a balancing act for organizations to protect corporate data from potential threats while respecting user privacy.

Mobile device management supports various device types and streamlines the onboarding process by guiding users through the necessary steps to configure personal devices for work use. It also enables organizations to enforce security policies on BYOD devices so that they can safely access network resources.

Device management policies need to accommodate the personal nature of BYOD devices while still ensuring security and compliance. 72 percent of cybersecurity professionals report data leakage as their main concern related to BYOD. Solutions will often use containerization or workspace separation techniques to distinguish corporate data and applications from personal content, allowing organizations to manage and protect corporate assets without interfering with personal data.

MDM implementations must consider the impact on user experience, especially with BYOD. Solutions should be transparent and non-intrusive to avoid interfering with employees' personal use of devices.


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Mobile device management best practices

Selecting the right MDM solution is crucial for organizations aiming to effectively manage and secure their mobile device fleet. With the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace and the increasing complexity of security threats, organizations need management software that offers a robust set of features.

Powerful security
A good mobile device management solution will offer a broad set of commands to help minimize security risks and data breaches. Security policies around passcodes, access restrictions, remote lock or wipe and factory resets address the challenges that come with protecting sensitive data and responding to security threats. Industry-standard encryption adds another layer of protection, safeguarding data at rest or in transit to and from your network.

Easy device registration
With any device management solution, you want to make enrollment easy for users. If the organization provides the device, it can install an application built for the respective operating system before giving it to the user. In the case of BYOD, self-enrollment gives employees mobile access to company resources quickly and ensures that IT does not need to intervene for each installation.

Comprehensive device inventory
You wouldn’t dream of not knowing all the stats on every desktop computer connecting to your network; the same should be true of every mobile device connecting to your network. Your mobile device management solution should be able to collect information like device attributes, configured policies, installed appliances, certificates, user profiles, and network settings, such as Wi-Fi and VPN configurations. A full endpoint inventory is instrumental as admins try to determine which platforms to support, which mobile devices are non-compliant and whether any are vulnerable.

Centralized management
With an easy-to-use, centralized platform, you can streamline management tasks and provide powerful, consistent functionality across mobile device platforms. IT administrators can oversee device settings, configurations, security policies, and applications from a single interface, regardless of the number of devices or their locations. The main goal is to manage mobile devices as another kind of endpoint, no matter the manufacturer.

Granular control
By separating personal and corporate data on mobile devices as part of a BYOD program, you can gain precise control over corporate-owned devices. This high level of control allows administrators to finely tune policies and permissions for individual devices or groups of devices. With the right approach, you will eliminate data bleed while managing applications and settings to protect corporate and personal data.

Mobile device management best practices

Why do enterprises need MDM software?

Many organizations underestimate the security risks that mobile devices pose. Unlike desktop computers, most smartphones and tablets don’t come with preinstalled protection against malware and other cyberthreats. This lack of security increases the vulnerability of mobile endpoints, especially considering the flexibility that users have in installing applications on personally owned devices.

The widespread use of mobile devices in public settings further exacerbates security risks. Public Wi-Fi connections, which are often unsecured, provide opportunities for bad actors to gain access to corporate data.

Unlike laptops, smartphones are easily misplaced or stolen, and their relatively simple passcode protections can be easily hacked. Once unauthorized access is gained, corporate data stored on the device, including sensitive emails and documents, becomes vulnerable to theft.

Moreover, the diverse landscape of mobile devices within an organization adds complexity to protecting them. Managing various device types, operating systems, and application versions requires meticulous tracking and monitoring to detect vulnerabilities. Plus, older devices may lack essential security features, such as encryption, exposing them even more to potential data breaches.

Enterprises need a mobile device management solution to address the unique security challenges posed by mobile devices. If an organization doesn’t have strong protections in place, data stored on corporate networks that users access through mobile devices could be vulnerable. By implementing comprehensive MDM software, IT admins can protect their network from BYOD and mobile security threats. Organizations can enforce security measures, such as encryption, remotely manage lost or stolen devices, and maintain visibility and control over the diverse array of mobile endpoints within their network.


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