Review: MobileSpaces combines MAM and MDM for BYOD security

MobileSpaces is a mobile security solution that combines mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) features.

MobileSpaces ($5.00/month per user) is a new entry into the crowded Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) security market. Currently, I would place MobileSpaces as a cross between Mobile Applications Management (MAM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM). While much of mobile security market turning to secure containers, MobileSpaces takes a novel and innovative "container-free" approach to mobile app security.

I had a chance to sit down with David Goldschlag, CEO of MobileSpaces and Dan Dearing, vice president of marketing of MobileSpaces in late March to get a demo of MobileSpaces. They later gave me access to a MobileSpaces demo environment so I could check it out for myself.

MobileSpaces setup

For purposes of this article, I'm running MobileSpaces on a Nexus 10 tablet running Android 4.42. There is a free management app available for iOS and Android devices users have to download prior to onboarding their device to MobileSpaces.

Goldschlag and Dearing tell me it takes about a half hour to onboard a device, which fits the experience I had when one of their employees walked me through the setup process.

On the Android side, I'd like to see the application update process become a bit more fine-tuned. For example, I hadn't used the Nexus 10 tablet for a while, so I was due some application updates. In particular, I had Adobe Reader app already installed. MobileSpaces required me to respond to another prompt to ensure that the Adobe Reader app installed in the secure MobileSpaces workspace was installed, as well. More experienced users will have no problem with this extra step, it's the more inexperienced users who bought the cheapest Android available from the carrier who might need a little extra coaching. Either way, MobileSpaces may get Android users to spring clean their mobile devices.

MobileSpaces and the container free experience

Corporate data to the right; Words with Friends, social media apps, and selfies to the left describe the typical BYOD smartphone or tablet. The MobileSpaces model of a secure workspace could prove to a bit more friendly to some users. On my Android tablet, access to my MobileSpaces workspace is always available from the Android Navigation Drawer. You have to enter a pin code whenever you want to access the workspace. It works roughly the same on an iOS device. The below figure hows the MobileSpaces secure workspace running on my tablet:

Secure workspace

Application and device management

On the backend, MobileSpaces has a well-designed dashboard that got my attention. It should be easy enough for small to medium businesses (SMBs) to support in-house with some minimal ramp up time. The figure below shows an example of the MobileSpaces dashboard:

MobileSpaces dashboard

Within a few clicks, an administrator can do the following:

  • Remotely deploy mobile apps via policy to MobileSpaces workspaces under their management control
  • Manage an application whitelist
  • Remove or wipe apps remotely

This figure shows the administration view into the workspace I setup on my Android tablet:

Workspace management

Administrators can view activities that took place on the device including a wide range of warnings, errors, and device operational information like when the user requests a lost password. There is also a view into the device's policy history that did a great job of documenting the app updates and installs that took place while I was writing this review.

The Actions menu enables an administrator to perform these critical tasks:

  • Push Space
  • Resend Invitation
  • Reset Passcode
  • Lock Workspace
  • Wipe Workspace
  • Delete Workspace
  • Add VPN Certificate

A Yes/No dialog box appears when you select an action so you have a chance to back out that ill timed delete workspace action you were planning.

Policies management is also available through the dashboard. You can create policies globally or on a group level to manage things app licensing, email access, ActiveSync, encryption, Wi-Fi access, VPN, and passcode controls.

MobileSpaces provides support for a built-in app store, iOS App Store, Google Play, and your custom enterprise apps. Administrators can deploy mobile apps remotely from a very usable cloud-based dashboard. The Apps tab gives you control over managing apps that are available in MobileSpaces workspaces under your administration. The below figure shows the Apps available for the MobileSpaces workspace running on my Android tablet:

Apps management in MobileSpaces

You have the option to add new apps from Google Play, the iOS App Store, or manually.

Google Apps support

MobileSpaces includes native app support for the full Google Apps suite of messaging, sharing, collaboration and storage services. This fact is nice for companies that have standardized on Google Apps for Business.

Final recommendation

MobileSpaces is quite an impressive solution with lots of potential. It's worth a look if you are seeking a cloud-based MDM solution. The company even has beta and paying customers. However, MobileSpaces is entering a crowded market. Startups like MobileSpaces are facing Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite on one side and market consolidation on the other as the recent acquisitions of Fiberlink (by IBM) and Air Watch (by VMware) attest. I predict some of the next battles in the MDM market aren't going to be won through technology innovation but by who has the largest sales and partner channels.

By Will Kelly

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...