There are many MDM solution on the market, and selecting one can be a difficult task. I contacted and met with several vendors before I proposed a solution to the administration board of my organization. Absolute Software is the MDM solution that we chose and that I'm currently using within my workplace. Although I use this software, there was no additional incentives given to write this article, aside from my own personal learning and research.
Let's take a closer look at Absolute Software.
Before I begin into the specifics of Absolute Software and its use, I want to share the experiences I had with this company and some reflections about working with them. First, this company was easy to approach and communicate with. No matter how many tireless questions and different scenarios I threw their way, they would respond fairly quickly, even if it was only to acknowledge my email and let me know when they would have a response. There were several other sales representatives from other vendors who wouldn't reply for nearly a week. During that time, I wouldn't even know if the contact had received my email.
The sales team at Absolute also didn't pressure me to buy anything, because they let their product speak for itself. They allowed me to use the demo for a period of time, all the while following up with me and allowing me to contact their technical support department with any technical questions I had, rather than try to force me into a support contract. Even after purchasing the product, they still took the time to answer my questions, just as I had when I was previewing the product. Overall, this company appears to have a strong desire to take care of their customers, which was a refreshing approach.
Absolute Manage offers two methods of utilizing their software, and this is great when you consider the needs for small business vs. enterprise users. The first model, which is the most common among third-party MDM providers, is a Software as a Service (SaaS) or Mobile as a Service (MaaS) model. They provide the servers and take care of the backup and uptime contracts that many small businesses don't have the resources for. The IT admin can access their organization's information from a web portal, plus assign users with limiting degrees of accessibility for management purposes.
For SMBs that don't have a large IT infrastructure in their organization, this model is extremely beneficial, especially when you take into account the backups, complicated setup, and required uptime that would otherwise be required. However, some organizations may already have these resources or may have guidelines about how data is managed within the organization.
Fortunately, Absolute also offers a standalone server program that can be installed and setup on your own servers. You can now manage your organization's mobile data and security within your own facility and according to your own rules. The even better news is that this software is dual platform, so you can install it on your Windows Server or Mac OS X Server. From my experience, this is definitely one of the more flexible tools available.
Absolute Software also offers installation services. I recommend using it if you don't want to spend a great deal of time setting it up. For organizations on a tight budget, make sure you have someone on staff who is fairly tech savvy and comfortable with signing certificates. The software comes packaged with its own pre-configured lighttp webserver. You'll need to handle your own ports and such, but the installation was simple enough.
The most difficulty I had was with Apple. I had signed up for this MDM solution when an Apple Enterprise Developer's Account was still required in order to create a signed application certificate. I work at a University, and we have our own root certificate authority. Unfortunately, Apple didn't recognize that certificate authority, so when it came time to put the MDM profile onto the devices with the certificate in place, the devices wouldn't recognize them. After signing some additional parameters, I was able to get it to work.
Absolute Manage allows for two methods of signing into the server: through your organizations Active Directory and through your own webserver. I've utilized both methods and found them both to be very easy.
Absolute's main console is an application that links up to your organization's Absolute server, so you can essentially manage the server from anywhere you have the app installed. It includes several features, such as securing the device, remotely wiping the device, and geo-location services. In order to turn on geo-location services, the user must first input a password and then input that password on the managing computer. If they don't want their device to be tracked, the user can simply remove that privilege or change their password.
The media management solution is also impressive. On iOS devices, the admin can setup a safe that stores media that needs extra management or contains sensitive information. The safe can prevent that media from being emailed, printed, and even accessed during certain times, plus allow for automatic deletion from the device after a certain period of time has passed or a date has been reached. This helps devices exist on the infrastructure without security risk issues or fear of losing sensitive data.
Aside from the quirky setup that happened to be more on Apple's end, I found Absolute Software to be very easy to use and easy to implement, and I recommend it to other organizations who are seeking an MDM solution. Currently, it fills the niche I have for my organization, which is why it receives such a glowing review.
Do you use a different solution for your MDM needs? Please share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Jacob Bradshaw is a Systems Admin for the Marriott Library at the University of Utah. He manages all things Mac and mobile related and still geeks out over the latest in all things mobile.