Mobile IT – choosing a vendor in a crowded market

In a follow up to his recent look at the options available to organisations seeking to manage the data security risks associated with BYOD, James Tay, CEO at Logicalis Asia, sets out the considerations that should guide organisations’ choice of MDM/MAM vendor. 

Forrester Research points out that there are more than 40 serious players in the MDM/MAM market, so there are lots of options out there.  But, in making the right choice, there are a number of issues to take into account, based on the needs of the organisation both now, and in the future.

First of all, there are three over-arching considerations to bear in mind when selecting a Mobile IT vendor.  A credible solution must deliver:

  1. Complete visibility of what devices are on the network and what these devices are doing
  2. ‘On-boarding’ that allows access by personal devices without inundating IT staff with extra workloads
  3. Enforcement and maintenance of security and control of the network.

 Beyond those fundamentals, a range of more granular issues will guide the final vendor selection. Ask yourself:

Is there a local support framework for both Pre and Post-Sales?

Allowing enterprise access to personal devices has direct implications for an organisation’s IT resources; time and effort must be spent managing and configuring user devices for secure corporate use.

In my view automatic ‘on-boarding’ and intuitive MDM portals are essential to relieving pressure on IT departments. Sponsors can provide guest users with access rather than relying on the IT team to validate and provide credentials, thus saving time and resources.

Any proposed vendor should certainly be proposing a ‘self-service’ approach and show evidence of solid support during and after integration.

What is the size of the customer database and are there customer references?

It is quite obvious really, but the number of successful deployments and the degree to which existing customers will provide references should be an indication that a vendor is in a strong position to provide a solid, reliable solution.

In particular, look for clients in the government or financial sectors.  These organisations tend to take a wait-and-see stance given their uncompromising security requirements – and few vendors can currently boast significant adoption in these markets.

Specifically, the sectors are likely to look for security features that allows non-compliant devices to be placed in a quarantined VLAN, with access permitted and policies enforced only after the successful fulfilment of the necessary anti-virus updates and patches.

So I would look for vendors with clients in these sectors, as they would have been tested on the security limits.

Are there clear advantages to integrating MAM and MDM and to what extent should ease and cost of deployment considerations should be part of the selection criteria?

Most vendors provide point solutions that address just parts of the challenge but IT departments need a comprehensive solution and, at the same time, organisations require a simple framework for deploying BYOD.

Although MDM solutions require an agent to reside in the mobile devices, they also do away with the requirement to upgrade networks.

We have already mentioned the need to ease pressure on IT departments, but there is also quicker return on investment when a holistic solution, like hybrid MDM/MAM, is in place.

Should I go for an on-premise or cloud-based offering?

Cloud offerings and SaaS solutions with managed services tend to have a comparatively lower initial cost and call on the IT Department resources. They also provide greater resilience, and typically offer multiple points of presence.

Costs could escalate, however, if the number of devices per employee is not restricted, since licences are not typically open-ended.

On-premise is generally favoured where an organisation wishes to maintain a high level of control over the solution - but on-premise can have higher capital expenditure implications.

Does the vendor support multiple OS environments?

Without a doubt, your vendor should be able to handle multiple operating systems and have a game plan for dealing with future players.  On a related note, it is just as important to partner with a mature and established vendor with strong and clear workflows, processes and roadmaps.

Does the solution have strong reporting and dashboard capabilities?

Centralised reporting will be useful in monitoring for the exhaustion of licenses and providing clear visibility of the number of devices per employee.

In the past, we might have seen the same user on the network multiple times, but did not know which devices they were using on the network.  In a BYOD environment, that is simply not detailed enough, so look for a vendor which can deliver the insight required to monitor and manage access on a much more detailed level.

Coming up soon we'll be asking what technological legacy London 2012 will leave for businesses, and taking a further look at the Aerodynamic Business.

Tags BYOD, Mobile IT, MAM, MDM, Business Strategy

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