How to choose the best MDM partner: 5 key considerations

Here's what organizations considering using a mobile device management server should keep in mind.

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The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative adds a layer of complexity to how IT manages all of the various devices while protecting the core infrastructure and data assets. Before your organization decides which mobile device management (MDM) solution to partner with, these are five important considerations. The wrong choice will lead to a loss of time, money, and productivity, as well as possibly leave the organization with a solution that does not fully address its needs or concerns.

SEE: Reducing the risks of BYOD in the enterprise (free PDF) (TechRepublic) 

1. Fully supports developer frameworks

MDM software primarily works by enforcing policies and restrictions on mobile devices. These policies are based on frameworks (like blueprints) created by the software developers that stipulate how these devices can and cannot be controlled. Many MDM solutions support the full gamut of developers' frameworks, meaning all policies are available for management; some solutions only support certain functions; and others may limit what policies are available to manage. It's best to go with a provider that fully supports all the frameworks for the device and OS types your organization needs to manage.

2. Zero-day support for updates and upgrades

On the subject of support, find out if the partner also provides zero-day support for the latest upgrades. For example, when Apple releases a new version of its iPadOS, it launches worldwide. If your organization has a large fleet of iPads to support, and you want to be able to take advantage of locking down the newest settings straightaway, your MDM solution will need to be updated to support the latest features. If the vendor doesn't offer zero-day support, users will be quick to update without the necessary management coverage in place to manage those early adopter devices.

3. Cloud hosting provisioning and scalability

MDM solutions come in a variety of flavors, such as on-premise (on-network) or cloud-hosted (off-network). While your organization's needs and any regulations they're subject to will greatly dictate the type of MDM solution you require, it is not uncommon for organizations to leverage a cloud-based solution. If you have a clear understanding of where the servers are located, how they're provisioned, and what scalability options are available, it can make the difference between device management occurring minutes after commands are issued or hours.

SEE: Rise in mobile device failures affects employee productivity (TechRepublic)

4. Enterprise-level support agreements

Managing devices may be the central aspect of an MDM, but like all applications of scale, don't overlook the service level or support agreement when forming a partnership with a vendor. Like all services, they will sometimes experience outages, or your IT team will need guidance on how to best deploy a policy or block a feature. This is where a good support team steps in to assist in correcting any issues that might otherwise prevent management from occurring as planned. And don't forget training--some partners offer self-service or face-to-face training as a separate fee or included with the service-level agreement.

5. Advanced integration with services 

This is not required for the management functions to work properly--it's more of a "good to have" that may add value to the MDM solution and service agreements. An example of value-added or advanced functionality is API access for making calls to the backend system, beyond what's accessible via the GUI. Another example is integration with Active Directory, Azure/Office 365, or proprietary single-sign on (SSO) support that uses the company's directory services infrastructure for additional security and management capability.

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