For many businesses, figuring out when to adopt a new technology can seem more like guesswork than calculation. This is especially true for the small- to medium-sized business (SMB), where such decisions can be time-consuming and a strain on the budget.
While many think of MDMs as being a way to control smartphones and tablets, it’s also imperative for monitoring and managing laptops and systems, especially for today’s bring-your-own-device (BYOD) workplace.
All of these devices give employees the ability to get work done when and where they need to, and not having to provide them yourself saves on time and money. So how are today’s SMBs supposed to weigh the benefits of MDMs against the cost? First we’re going to get into what MDMs are and how they work, before finally addressing their benefits and when it’s time to implement your own.
What an MDM Is and What It Does
The idea of mobile device management began with the need to control company information housed on smartphones in the workplace, then later grew to encompass tablets and laptops. With MDMs, admins can manage, control, and secure those devices.
This can include a number of commands such as controlling screen lock, adding security requirements for passwords, or determining what applications can and can’t be installed on a device. And they don’t just secure data; just as importantly, they also restrict access to it with functions like remote wipe — a feature especially handy for lost or stolen devices.
To do all of this, an agent is first installed on an employee’s device. Devices can be identified based on their serial number, associated user, or device name, depending on the MDM and the needs of the organization. IT admins then use MDMs to deploy configuration settings and execute other commands.
The extent of this control typically depends on either the vendor you purchase the solution from or what kind of package you elect from them. These controls can vary from the basics listed above to more advanced ones, such as tracking a device’s location, forcing updates, or encrypting data.
So given all of this, and considering the array of controls you can choose to elect, when do you know if your business has reached the point of needing an MDM?
How Does the SMB Benefit From an MDM?
While it may sound like something that can be put off for smaller businesses, mobile device management has become essential for all organizations. True, most SMBs don’t have the capacity for a full-fledged IT department, or may not even have an IT person. But they do need all of the critical capabilities that smartphones, tablets, and laptops afford, and those have to be protected.
An MDM can help ensure this baseline security, and at a relatively low cost for many of the most basic packages. But what are the real benefits of having one?
We know that MDMs boost the security and functionality of employee devices, but they also improve visibility and reporting capabilities for them so you can monitor their well-being. An MDM can give you the means to stop problems before they start while still keeping a handle on the costs of this support.
With a basic MDM, for example, you can automatically apply software updates when they’re released, which can greatly increase security and eliminate the problems associated with end users repeatedly ignoring their update notifications. And if for some reason those updates aren’t taking place on a particular device, an MDM will typically alert you to the problem so it can be quickly fixed.
When it comes to time savings, an MDM can automatically control facets like email, WiFi and VPN configuration without employee oversight. MDMs also facilitate changes quickly, allowing your devices to stay updated no matter how your environment or priorities change with continued expansion.
When Should Mobile Device Management Be Required?
Small- to medium-sized businesses now account for 43% of all targeted cyber attacks. And with every new personal or company device introduced, a business’s landscape for attack is made that much wider.
Mobile device management is one of those tools where even if you don’t think you need it, you probably do. After all, 60% of all small and midsize businesses that have been hacked go out of business in only 6 months. Comparatively, an MDM solution is a small investment to make for the risk it mitigates.
The truth is, the few reasons you may have for not having an MDM are likely moot by now. While it would be excusable in environments that only used on-prem workstations, for example, that kind of workplace is almost extinct at this point. Anymore, the ready availability of free and cheap business IT resources that now empower SMBs almost always include or require mobile devices to get the most out of them.
So if you or your employees are using their smartphones for anything other than actual phone calls — if they’re ever checking their email from home or while at the airport — and you don’t have an MDM in place, you’re potentially putting your whole business (and your employees’ and clients’ confidential data) at risk for security breaches and worse.
To learn more about device management, please feel free to continue reading our blog. For further tips regarding data security and management for SMBs, you can also check out our Security Playbook for SaaS Startups.