In this day and age of computers getting smaller and more powerful, the new standard for personal computing devices has become the smartphone, and its bulkier sibling, the tablet. The case for using these nearly universal devices in business is becoming clearer by the day. But just handing out a bunch of powerful new gadgets in a business environment, or asking employees to bring their own, is not without its challenges.

That’s where this thing called MDM appears on the market for IT utilities. That’s right, if you have brought smartphones to work, you have added IT responsibilities. But fear not. Instead, read on to find out how MDM can help a business make sense of mobile devices.


What is MDM?

MDM is short for Mobile Device Management. The term generally refers to a system that hooks into the operating system on smartphones to collect information or apply restrictions and security precautions that may be sound company policy. This is true for Miradore Online, our free MDM product you can get started with today.


Why should I use MDM?

In short: smartphones are computers. Computers need to be managed for business continuity and security reasons. For example, phones tend to get lost or stolen; in 2013, Consumer Reports estimated that over three million phones were stolen in the United States alone. Business Insider reports on a Lookout/IDG Research study that implies that phone owners may pay large sums of money or put themselves in danger to get their phones back, too.

Because our lives are on our phones, including work stuff, it’s wise to protect and have control over the data we store on our devices. Especially in the case of unencrypted Android phones, remote erase can really protect your proprietary business information.


What are the software requirements to use MDM?

Our MDM solution, Miradore Online is very easy to set up, as is device enrollment. The only software requirement is a web browser, and needs no management app to be installed. For Apple devices, you need an Apple account to manage encryption keys, but that’s easy to do with a few clicks. There is no server software to maintain. We run the service, and your data is protected under EU and local Finnish privacy legislation.

Ukrainian women using smartphones

People carry their smartphones with them, all the time. They can easily become personal items, regardless of the formal owner. Image credit


What is the simplest, biggest benefit of MDM

In the case of a business, it’s really simple: inventory. You get a clear, real-time roundup of your mobile device assets, as soon as you’ve enrolled them. Maybe that’s all you need for now.

If you’re a business type of person, the benefits of keeping inventory may be pretty clear. But to clarify, let’s use the pet/cattle analogy:

Computers and gadgets that we own and use personally can be a bit like pets. They all have their personalities, and you don’t necessarily mind setting them up separately to be special snowflakes.

But at work, in the role of being in charge of IT, you find yourself treating computers more like cattle because you would waste a lot of time by being too concerned about every individual machine. It might even be impossible to remember what device is assigned to whom in an organization with more than, say, five people.

Not that we’d stop you from using Miradore Online to keep track of phones in your family. In fact, we think that’s a great idea.


We don’t use smartphones at work. How can MDM help me?

If your organization is a smartphone holdout, MDM might be just the tool you need to make the switch. Smartphones can pose legitimate risks and may have associated costs, like data plans, that an organization may decide against having present.

There’s no shame in being careful. So, your organization might want to start with tablets without cell connections. MDM handles them too. If there’s only so many apps you need to do work, MDM can make sure nothing unnecessary gets on the devices.

What’s the business case for smartphones?

If MDM can bring your workplace over the threshold, into the mobile age, you’re in for a massive set of benefits that can mean a world of difference in productivity: the possibility of using modern tools and applications, on the go. If you have a mobile workforce, a smartphone with the standard apps can help with everything from basic e-mail to filing receipts and reports.

If you have a salesforce working a floor at a retail location, smartphones or tablets with point of sale accessories and software can help your people be real smooth operators, with no interruptions and fewer second thoughts for customers.

Does your business have any custom software? If you get that ready to be reworked to mobile, your workers will be in for a treat as well. If your mobile use can cut down on the number of PCs that are in active use, there’s an extra bonus: smartphones and tablets use significantly less power and generate less heat.

How can MDM help me keep costs down?

In some cases, there are big savings to be had from limiting use of company-owned devices. In some countries, company phones are taxed differently, but only if they aren’t used for personal stuff. To ensure compliance with any regulation of how company equipment can be used, you can apply whitelists for apps through MDM, or even deploy a set of apps that’s needed as the device is enrolled and handed out to the user.

Being strict about apps can also help save mobile data transfer. In many countries, those gigabytes really add up. Having a game or two might seem innocent enough but many free to play titles may show video ads!

Then, there is of course the issue of free apps collecting and leaking data.

What are the security benefits of MDM?

With Mobile Device Management, you can take control of your devices. With application white and blacklisting, and remote installs and removal, you can really limit what your devices are exposed to.

Apple mobile products are famous for receiving years of support for the latest and most secure version of iOS, and MDM helps you make sure you get the benefits of Apple’s higher purchasing price by checking the version number. Make sure that iPhone 5 from 2012 runs the latest and greatest!

Android devices, on the other hand, come in all shapes with all kinds of build quality and extra software. Android offers extremely attractive pricing and flexibility compared to Apple. But the downside is that manufacturers and carriers can be sluggish, even hopelessly so, with providing the most basic security updates. The state of the Android ecosystem is such that even Google’s flagship Nexus branded phones may only get two years of guaranteed updates.

You may not have to throw out perfectly good Android devices from 2014, though. By limiting which apps can be used and by enforcing other policies, the attack surface can be kept at a minimum.

Then there is the issue of analytics and ad tracking. Many mobile apps try to collect as much data as possible about the user. On Android, this may include user data on the phone. This is bad enough for the consumer, but you don’t want random information in the hands of strangers.

Men browsing their smartphones

Men at work, presumably busy using up their precious smartphone data plans by browsing Facebook. Image credit.


How can MDM help a a small business with limited IT resources?

It’s not uncommon for small business owners, non-profits, educational institutions and NGOs to have very limited resources. Maybe you’re not really an IT person at all, you just happen to have all the responsibilities. That can feel overwhelming. But with Miradore Online, you can very easily start taking back some of that control you need. Employees get the benefit of having an easier time and can share the responsibility of looking after their devices.

With MDM, smartphones and tablets are much less complex to manage in volume than PCs. Especially with Apple iOS, there are real security benefits over unmanaged PCs, too. If you’re low on resources, it’s a good idea to see just how much daily work and internet stuff your organization could do on mobile platforms.

How can MDM help me make sense of a BYOD program?

If your company has decided to allow employees to bring their own devices, or to arrange for allowances to spend on a mobile device of their choice, MDM is an obvious option to make this diversity manageable. If people truly are going to use personal phones to access company resources, chances are that you do not have extremely strict IT rules.

That’s fine in many organizations, and for responsible workers, it can add to employee satisfaction. After all, who doesn’t enjoy choosing their own tool for the job. However, it is important to set ground rules and to make sure to be able to quickly erase lost phones. But that’s jumping ahead: just getting started and automatically deploying apps on employee phones no matter where they are is the sort of thing that will make a diverse, moving target of a workforce manageable.
That’s it! These are the most important reasons we think businesses should look into taking back control over mobile computing. Mobile devices are too brilliant for you to let them become nuisances at work!

Title image credit

Thomas Nybergh

Thomas Nybergh

Thomas Nybergh is a writer with a passion for mobile technology and user-centred design. He has spent nearly a decade working at the crossroads of technology and marketing and now spends far too much time on the internet helping to make it tick.
Thomas Nybergh