Five reasons for cloud-based mobile device management
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This blog post is contributed by Mick Landers, IT Architect for GTS Mobile Enterprise Services
Choosing between an on-premises or cloud-based mobile device management (MDM) solution is not always as straightforward as you might think. The enterprise IT manager needs to consider how much control they ultimately want over their MDM infrastructure and balance that against the advantages of the cloud-based approach.
On-premises MDM: Here the MDM server sits on premises at the customer location and is managed just like any other server in the enterprise network. The server must be secured, backed up and maintained. In addition, the MDM application on that server may have other dependencies that must be managed such as a Structured Query Language (SQL) database or network connectivity.
Cloud-based MDM: In this scenario, the MDM server is hosted remotely in an MDM vendor’s cloud and accessed over the Internet. The mobile devices also connect to the MDM server directly over the Internet. The MDM server running in the MDM vendor’s cloud may also have connections back into the corporate network for functions such as directory or mail server integration.
The argument for cloud-based MDM
1. Speed to deploy
With a cloud-based MDM solution you can get up and running quickly. In a matter of hours you can have your mobile security policies defined, have an enterprise app store configured and be enrolling your mobile devices with that MDM server. No server setup, MDM installation, firewall or networking configuration to worry about.
2. Simple requirements
If your MDM requirements are straightforward (device passcode policies, encryption settings, basic application management and so on), then a cloud-based MDM is definitely the place to start. However if you are looking at more complicated MDM scenarios, then the cloud-based MDM server will need some connections back to your enterprise network.
Do you want to integrate MDM with your corporate directory, forcing users to enter their corporate credentials when enrolling or managing their mobile devices? Then you may need a component running in your corporate network that provides this capability for the cloud-based MDM.
Do you want to integrate your MDM system with your corporate email? You may have a requirement to prevent email access for certain categories of mobile devices. This may in turn lead to another MDM component that must sit in your enterprise network protecting your email systems.
Even with complex requirements like these, a cloud-based MDM may still be the right option for your enterprise.
3. Changing mobile landscape
The mobile environment is changing very quickly. Do you want to spend time continuously upgrading your MDM platform every time Apple or Google releases a new version of their platform? Are you going to invest in new mobile devices as they appear in the market and test these devices with your MDM server?
Having an MDM system running in the cloud should mitigate this worry. The burden of testing and upgrading the MDM application to support the continuously changing mobile device landscape is removed.
4. Platform costs
A cloud-based implementation will eliminate up-front investment in a dedicated MDM server. It also removes the ongoing hardware, operating system, database and network costs associated with running an MDM server.
You may also get comprehensive service level agreements from the cloud-based MDM provider, and you won’t have to figure out a disaster recovery strategy for your MDM system.
With cloud-based MDM, you now have one less system to worry about—a system that is storing sensitive information such as employee names, phone numbers, device location, application inventory and so on. Although you are giving up control of the physical infrastructure, you are still in control of your mobility strategy.
You will need to trust your cloud-based MDM provider and be satisfied with security measures in place on the cloud—how and where your data is stored and backed up, how your data is separated from others in the cloud and so on.
If these points sound compelling, then cloud-based MDM may be for you.
Your decision, but IBM can help
There are trade-offs between on-premises and cloud-based MDM. Even if you opt for a cloud-based MDM you may still need on-premises components based on your complete set of mobile device management requirements.
Ultimately you will need to balance your desire to control the physical servers running MDM applications against the advantages of the cloud-based MDM model.
The good news is that IBM GTS Mobile Enterprise Services supports both on-premises and cloud-based MDM solutions. IBM provides a simplified subscription-based pricing model built around devices, usage and on-premises or cloud-based service options for greater predictability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness.
Mick Landers is an IT Architect for GTS Mobile Enterprise Services. He develops reusable managed service offerings for the Mobile Enterprise, focusing on Mobile Device Management and Mobile Application Platform Management. Mick also engages in mobility bidding and proposal response, and solution design for our customers. Follow Mick on Twitter at @landersm.
Mick is an IBM Redbooks thought leader