Managing a mobile mess

Managing a mobile mess

With mobility on the rise, so too are IT administrator bugbears. Yet, the mobile mess should be seen as a channel opportunity.

The technology also tends to be expensive. Riverbed’s appliances start at $US5 for a small remote office up to for $US120,000 for datacentre grade appliances. The mobile controller product is sold with a 30-concurrent user licence for around $US13,000, which works out on a concurrent basis to being around $US100 per user.

Riverbed marketing evangelist, Robert Healey, said many organisations were prepared to pay this expense as the opportunity cost of missing business prospects is greater.

Narrowing choice

Investing in spot solutions is one thing, having a mobile strategy is another. Gartner mobile expert, Robin Simpson, has long advocated what is called ‘managed diversity’ – whereby the IT department proactively distributes a small list of supported devices that can gain access to the most corporate applications, plus a list of devices it can support only in a limited fashion, and a third list of devices it won’t support.

The simplest and cheapest option is to narrow choice – via the selection of a single mobile platform. Any given platform vendor has solutions to many of the five bugbears, provided an organisation is limited to its products.

RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server, for example, is carrier-agnostic and gives a high level of control to IT administrators over the remote management of alerts, software upgrades and some 400 policy options. Communication is end-to-end encrypted and a phone call can remote-kill the device, while support is usually available via the carrier.

Windows Mobile can now boast some of these credentials too. Systems Centre Mobile Device Manager enables organisations to apply the same standard operating environment to their Windows Mobile Devices that they already use on Windows laptops, sharing the same Active Directory (authentication) credentials. Encryption is optional and a remote wipe can be executed via a helpdesk telephone call or by logging in to a self-service web portal.

Within the OEMs there are yet further options. All i-mate devices come with Custom IQ – a free web-based, point-and-click policy-building tool that provides administrators with remote control over device email settings, security settings and the like. The manufacturer also offers Secure IQ – a similar service that enables a user that has lost their device to remotely lock, remove data, or set off an alarm that can’t be turned off. Support is offered by the device vendor at the cost of a local call.

A more common scenario is that more than one type of mobile device will be used within the organisation. For those that can afford them, there are management tools available.

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