How to Master Mobile Device Management in Heterogeneous Environments

Psst... Consolidate Your Tools

Written by Ashley Gwilliam on May 16, 2022

Share This Article

Can you imagine life without your favorite mobile devices? 

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with our smartphones, tablets, and laptops. While we enjoy their conveniences, we also resent the dopamine-inducing habits they promote. 

But the benefits of staying connected far outweigh any disadvantages for most of us, excluding the Ron Swanson’s of the world. This sentiment is especially true for getting work done in the cloud.

Mobile devices are essential for responding to customer demands, troubleshooting departmental issues, and improving organizational processes in real time. As Gidion Peters, partner at Organize Agile, mentions regarding companies revisiting processes post-pandemic: 

“Agility is now more than ever. The current time of crisis is demonstrating how important it is to be able to adapt quickly.” 

The ability to adapt to unexpected circumstances, evolving information, and incoming data is crucial to maintaining profitability in today’s unpredictable world. The most essential tool to meet today’s time-sensitive demands? Mobile devices that allow team members to collaborate anytime and anywhere, of course.

The Importance of Mobile Device Management for Heterogeneous Environments

MDM and heterogenous work environments

Unfortunately, there are significant security challenges in mobile devices when they’re left unmanaged. That’s where mobile device management (MDM) software and MDM best practices come into play. 

But with so many personal operating systems in use — macOS, Linux, Chrome OS, Microsoft Windows, etc. — IT managers are now facing the challenge of customizing mobile device management solutions for heterogeneous environments. 

This article will look at where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we’re heading in the landscape of mobile device management in the workplace.

Traditional Premise-Based Mobile Device Management 

In 1999 a new technology company launched a device with a revolutionary premise: emails on the go. BlackBerry didn’t take long to soar in popularity with white-collared professionals. 

Software engineers released the first MDM solutions for Microsoft Windows operating systems in response shortly after. MDM refers to platforms that allow IT managers to control end-user devices to meet organizational guidelines for security configurations, specifications, and updates. 

The focus on Microsoft made sense because most organizational systems, applications, files, and networks revolved around Windows OS at the time. Microsoft Windows Active Directory quickly became the de facto, premise-based platform for managing group policies, controlling user accounts, and providing centralized data management.

The Rise of Heterogeneous Environments

heterogenous environment

Unfortunately, just when IT admins started to get comfortable, a little invention called “the smartphone” turned MDM on its head. After the 2007 launch of the iPhone, consumers increasingly began to spend time on personal mobile devices. 

Much to the chagrin of time-strapped IT admins, both macOS and Linux-based devices began to gain traction in the workplace. This was problematic for two reasons: 

  1. Windows Active Directory neither supported macOS or Linux device management; and, 
  2. Linux’s open source operating system proved exceedingly difficult to code MDM point solutions for its devices. 

While configuration management tools advanced to meet these needs, they still necessitated jumping between several MDMs to fully cover heterogeneous environments. This dilemma resulted in admins abandoning macOS and Linux device management more often than not.

The Era of Remote Work

remote worker

For many professionals, the silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic (if you could say there was one at all) has been the standardization of remote work. Employees from multiple industries now enjoy the freedom of working from home offices, coffee shops, and coworking spaces. 

In addition, a whopping 87% of employers expect their workers to access business apps via personal devices. A significant portion of devices include Windows, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome OS tablets and laptops — constantly switching between public and home networks.

As expected, bring your own device (BYOD) policies have created significant security headaches for unprepared organizations of all sizes. 

Left to their own accord, many workers have begun using applications with known vulnerabilities, storing sensitive information on unlocked devices, and forgoing data encryption. Yikes! As you might imagine, such actions pose huge security threats to organizational data. 

However, without cross-platform MDM for heterogeneous environments in place, admins remain in a tough position. For many organizations, automating crucial patches, conducting routine backups, and enforcing identity management protocols remains a pipe dream.

The Solution: Cloud-Based MDM

Mobile device management
JumpCloud Directory MDM Console

The key to marrying the advantages of remote work with mobile device security is cloud-based MDM. Cloud architecture streamlines the automation process by allowing IT admins to make fleet-wide configurations from a single console — without needing to physically connect. 

After installing an agent to connect a device to the cloud MDM, admins maintain a high degree of remote authority. For example, say an employee loses their laptop. Upon notification from the employee, admins can lock and wipe clean the device within seconds remotely. 

Cloud-based MDM also comes in handy when onboarding new users. Admins can now use the Apple Device Enrollment Program (DEP), and Apple Business Manager, to reduce onboarding time for macOS devices. In the past, a lot of time was spent configuring imaging machines manually, which required the skills of an IT technician. There are also now Apple MDM solutions for ongoing management.

As for Linux device management, modern MDMs eliminate the necessity of complex coding. Admins can remotely fix configuration issues on devices without external displays or input devices. Third-party MDM servers can also manage Windows devices by leveraging MDM protocols.

Achieving a Centralized MDM Solution

mdm dashboard jumpcloud
JumpCloud Mobile Enrollment Directory

The best MDM tools combine standard capabilities with identity and access management (IAM), allowing for stress-free consolidation. In addition, they support Windows, Mac, and Linux under one roof. Translation: no more jumping between point solutions! 

With that said, comprehensive MDM solutions boil down to two essential aspects: security and simplified deployment. Strict mobile device management policies allow organizations to safeguard security from external and internal threats. But they also support the following tasks:

1. Device enrollment and updating

There are two main steps toward device enrollment. First, there is onboarding devices and then assigning users to said devices. Once enrollment is complete, admins can carry out software configurations, device diagnostics, and troubleshooting services remotely. This saves time and makes it easier for remote workers to conveniently access the applications they need from afar. Check out our MDM simulation for a walkthrough on configuration settings.

2. User provisioning and management

MDM solutions enable IT professionals to create, modify, disable, and delete user accounts and their profiles across various devices and business applications from a central point.

3. Application deployment and management

Again, modern productivity is contingent upon maintaining instant access to applications, files, and data from anywhere and at any time. MDM should make it possible to whitelist, blacklist, and remove applications from select devices. 

4. Automated monitoring and reporting

As technology moves toward full automation in various sectors, MDM has a huge part to play. MDM technology supports automated device control that enables organizations to deploy all necessary settings and actions to devices automatically. They also help to establish automated, secure, and legislation-compliant processes that enable seamless IT service.

Learn more about how to compare MDM solutions and the cost of MDM tools to find the best option for your company.

Streamline Your Heterogeneous Environment with JumpCloud MDM

Navigating between several different tools to manage multiple operating systems can feel overwhelming. But failing to safeguard non-Windows devices is simply no longer an option. Unenrolled BYOD devices pose too great of a security risk to ignore. 

Simplify MDM by enlisting the support of JumpCloud Cloud Directory — an elegant solution that combines heterogenous MDM with identity and access management (IAM). Via the platform’s cloud platform, admins have everything they need to manage Windows, Mac, and Linux devices at a glance. JumpCloud comes with a ton of useful features, including zero-touch enrollment, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and single sign-on (SSO). 

Take what you need, and leave the rest; affordable plans are available to organizations of all sizes.

Sign up for a free MDM trial to see the new generation of MDM in action now.

Ashley Gwilliam

Ashley Gwilliam is a Content Writer for JumpCloud. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from on-camera acting to interviewing NBA basketball players to ghostwriting for CEOs. Today she writes about tech, startups, and remote work. In her analog life, she is on a quest to find the world's best tacos.

Continue Learning with our Newsletter