|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Small Businesses Exploring Mobile Device Management
While the smartphones and tablets that have become really ubiquitous in small business offer tremendous productivity advantages, they can also create a number of security threats if the devices are lost, stolen or compromise.
To address the potential security threats associated with mobile wireless devices to improve the efficiency of keeping devices up to date, a number of cloud-based mobile device management (MDM) services are being explored by small business owners.
According to the AT&T 2012 Small Business Technology Poll, nearly 90 percent of small businesses use wireless phones, and more than 40 percent say employees use mobile devices for work while they’re away from the office.
Similarly, a 2012 survey conducted by CDW suggests more than two third of small businesses rely on mobile devices for competitive advantages, with nearly 90 percent saying employees use personal devices for work. (In contrast, the CDW survey reports only 20 percent of small companies have implemented effective mobile device management policies or technologies.)
Given this increasing use of wireless technologies, it makes sense the challenges of providing security for mobile devices is also growing.
MDM technologies have been used for several years by larger enterprises, which tend to have a more standardize lineup of mobile devices than is found in the typical small business.
The large number of devices being used by small businesses is increasing demand for mobile device management programs, as well as interest among software publishers in serving the smaller business market.
Unlike large enterprises, small businesses generally have team members using a broad array of personally owned smartphones and tablets, any of which can pose a potential security threat if their security settings and information stored on the device aren’t effectively.
MDM software can, for example, allow a small business owner to establish and enforce security settings on the mobile devices accessing the company network. Specific features may include:
While features may vary among specific offerings, MDM software aimed at small business is generally delivered as a cloud service that is managed through a web interface. Through the interface, devices can be located, updated or deactivated, or can have network access permissions revoked if the need arises.
Some MDM software can also disable features such as device cameras for companies active in industries with specific security or regulatory considerations.
Another factor increasing the potential value of MDM technologies to small business owners is the diversity in the types of mobile devices their team members are likely to use. In addition to the divide between iOS and Android devices, small businesses often have to also account for BlackBerry devices, as well as variations in the Android operating system introduced by competing handset manufacturers.
With the growing types and numbers of mobile handsets and tablets that have to be included in a device management program, many small businesses find it makes more sense to enlist MDM support from a cloud services provider than trying to maintain devices themselves.
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