Mobile Device Management for MSPs: Does Platform Matter?

Mobile Device Management for MSPs: Does Platform Matter?

April 18

Now that BYOD has taken the enterprise world by storm, the ability to access any company app from any device is becoming a luxury more employees expect. Organizations can cater to those expectations and meet other objectives with a sound mobile device management (MDM) strategy. In an ideal scenario, MDM helps companies enjoy perks such as:

  • Ability to manage multiple devices from a centralized desktop or server
  • Automated policy enforcement across all devices
  • Less money spent on IT hardware
  • Improved employee satisfaction
  • Increase in productivity

MDM is attracting a lot of attention from managed service providers interested in taking advantage of the growing reliance on mobile. If you can master it, you can furnish your portfolio with a highly sought after offering that keeps the recurring dollars flowing. In order to thrive as an MDM specialist, your IT people must be adept at handling the challenges associated with mobile devices, starting at their respective operating systems.

In a perfect world, an MSP would service the needs of all clients that come their way, regardless of the underlying OS. But since reality and perfection are worlds apart, you have to carefully examine each platform to determine which should be supported in your offering.

Android Security Concerns 

MDM and Android

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Believe it or not, but Android is ruling the mobile OS space with an iron fist. Based on the most recent data I could find, it currently owns nearly 80 percent of the market share. While Android is wildly popular in the consumer gadget market, it is generally viewed with the side eye in the business community. Due to a checkered past littered with malware outbreaks, fragmentation issues, and lackluster IT management tools, some experts say Android is just too insecure to be trusted for enterprise needs.

Android has no doubt seen its fair share of problems over years on the security front. On the bright side, Google is incorporating new and improved management features with the release of each new version. There is speculation that enterprise security will be a core focus of the next release. Samsung even made its own Android security enhancements to calm the concerns IT professionals have about the platform. Things appear to be looking up, but Android’s shaky past still warrants careful consideration from MSPs.

iOS Licensing Issues

MDM and iOS

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Apple has done an admirable job of fleshing out its OS software with MDM-friendly features. iOS 7 has quite a few of them. There’s an integrated MDM facility that allows IT managers to wirelessly enroll new devices in the corporate network, in addition to administrative controls that isolate business apps and data from personal activities. iOS 7 also grants granular control of access to corporate resources. This feature, called Per App VPN, lets administrators configure applications to automatically connect to a VPN upon launching to ensure that user data is protected when accessing remote systems from mobile devices.

Due to solid baked in security and a slew of management features, iOS might be a smart choice for IT administrators with extensive knowledge of the platform. But in the case of offering MDM as a service, the biggest drawback may lie in integrating it with outside technology. In order to manage an iOS fleet with third-party software, you need Apple to issue an official digital certificate for each app. Obtaining a certificate has been described as a tedious process that takes quite a few steps to complete. Apple is currently the only major OS maker with these requirements, which may give an edge to its rivals depending on who’s judging. 

Windows Phone Cost Factor

MDM and Windows Mobile OS

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Mobile device management isn’t as simple as Android or iOS. There is a growing number of Windows-based gadgets in the picture, too. Microsoft’s mobile operating system Windows Phone is rich in MDM capabilities, empowering IT administrators with the ability to enforce strong password protection policies, automatically encrypt internal storage on connected devices, and when in the crunch, remotely wipe data and restore the user’s phone to the factory settings. One huge Windows Phone plus is that it supports some of the most popular third-party MDM solutions, including those offered by Airwatch, Spiceworks, and others.

Like its desktop counterparts, the mobile version of Windows is seamlessly compatible with several existing Microsoft applications. As a result, fully maximizing its management capabilities generally calls for the aid of other Microsoft solutions. Depending on the needs of your clients, Exchange, Windows Intune, and Office 365 are just some of the services you may require in order to deliver an effective MDM offering to customers. Microsoft has some impressive MDM tools up for grabs, but like much of its technology, making the most of them is going to cost you.

Sizing Up Systems for Your Services

To answer the question in the title, platform matters – a heck of a lot. If you navigate the MDM marketplace, you’ll see that some vendors focus on Android and iOS, while others are targeting Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Symbian, and everything under the mobile sun. For an MSP, the right platform is going to be a matter of your expertise and how much you can afford to compromise. Even if Android is your personal favorite, putting up with Apple’s rigorous licensing requirements may be worth the hassle if it allows you to give clients a peace of mind in the security department.

Mobile isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no need to attempt to conquer the MDM space right out of the gate. You can always bolster your portfolio at a later time. Recovering from a failed product launch can be a long, grueling road to travel. 

Top Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc