Today’s Workplace: A Look at Modern Device Management Solutions

BYOD programs are blurring the lines between ownership and responsibility over devices.

For IT organizations, an important, yet painful task is managing devices. With the plethora of device and operating system types, IT admins are constantly struggling to manage the devices on their network. The challenges stem from not being able to easily access the devices, execute tasks on them, and secure them. A wide range of operating systems and lack of tools isn’t the only challenge. Bring your own device (BYOD) programs are also blurring the lines between ownership and responsibility over devices.

Device management is a critical IT activity for a number of reasons.

First, devices need maintenance. Not in terms of cleaning the iPhone screen, but in terms of managing the programs and applications available to each device. Applications need to be installed and removed, logs fill up, and configuration settings updated. Maintenance of these and numerous other tasks helps ensure that devices stay operational.

Devices also need to have high security. To keep your business hacker-free and protected, employee devices need the latest security patches and firmware updates. IT admins need the ability to quickly and easily update an entire workforce’s security tactics without interrupting the business goals. This includes things as simple as passwords and keys, and as much as a multi-factor authentication implementation throughout a company.

Finally, users need on-going IT support for each of their devices. Devices malfunction and users make mistakes, but the volume of those errors can be drastically mitigated with proper support protocol. IT admins are on the hook to ensure that devices are functioning for their owners. Well performing devices are a critical aspect of IT delivering for their users.

Directory services have, historically, filled these device-user needs. Microsoft accurately predicted that as personal computer use became ubiquitous, businesses would need a systematic way to connect employees to their IT resources. They created Microsoft Active Directory to be a company’s sidekick in managing all users and IT applications.

In the modern “workscape,” this idea of connecting and managing users to their IT needs, has only grown larger and more complex.

The folks at Microsoft are no dummies. They also foresaw this development, and created Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to enable IT admins to perform tasks of Windows machines remotely. Among the tasks that can be performed include automated startup/shutdown scripts, connections to network resources, updating of security policies, and changing of registry settings. For all intents and purposes, GPOs were a powerful mechanism for IT admins to gain control over their Windows devices.

But that’s the catch, it only worked on Windows devices.

Windows was the business machine of choice throughout much of the 1990s. But the environment has drastically changed. Specifically, Macs have infiltrated the once homogenous Microsoft business culture. Moreover, BYOD requirements introduce myriad personal devices into the business device matrix. With the resurgence of Apple’s Mac platform and Linux’s dominance in technical situations, IT admins struggle to find ways to manage their entire device infrastructure.

Fortunately, directories are beginning to respond to the new realities of modern enterprise.

Directory-as-a-Service® Reimagines the Directory

Next generation directory services solutions—called Directory-as-a-Service® (DaaS)—have entered the playing field and are solving the problem. Cloud-based device management infrastructure allows a cross-platform management tool that

  • works on Macs
  • works on myriad “BYOD” devices
  • works with cloud-based applications for any devices.

This is done through the installation of a lightweight agent on each device. With the agent installed, IT admins can execute virtually any task across Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux devices.

DaaS-based device management builds on what GPOs can accomplish. Modern day device management need to be executed in virtually any language (e.g. PHP, perl, python, Ruby, etc.) and tasks unlimited to whether they’re ad hoc, scheduled, or triggered. DaaS does this.

Modern day device management also needs to have the ability to execute tasks, and sequence of tasks, on servers. This capability is effectively a commercial grade cron type of function. As IT admins know, cron can fail and that can lead to downtime. DaaS also does this.

With DaaS-based device management, IT admins can leverage it as a deeper, more fully functioning cron solution in addition to a cross-platform version of GPOs.

And here’s the thing, as IT moves further into the cloud and towards mixed device environments, device management will become even more critical. Businesses can’t afford to have a single platform device management solution like Active Directory, they must adopt a cross-platform, cloud-based device management solution like DaaS.