The debate that has emerged over the Government’s request for Apple to create a one-time backdoor to access encrypted data on a locked iPhone 5C has brought attention to Mobile Device Management (MDM). While MDM is not new, it has yet to catch on with many small businesses. Understanding how MDM could have resolved the iPhone data access issue – and more – may encourage small businesses to think about an MDM investment.

Among small businesses, there is a growing reliance on mobility to support flexible and remote workers and to remain competitive (see: “UC Summit 2015: Industry identifies key Unified Communications issues”). As a result, they need a way to manage and secure mobile devices – laptops, smartphones and tablets – whether they supply them or enable employees to use their personal devices under a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. MDM answers the need.

As Small Business Computing explains in “A Small Business Guide to Mobile Device Management,” once a device is connected to MDM software, you can enforce your company’s security and compliance policies, grant or deny access to company data, and automate the distribution and/or updates of apps and security tools. It also lets you wipe data off a device that has been stolen or lost or belongs to an employee who has left the company.

In the Apple iPhone situation had MDM software been installed on the phone, it would have allowed the San Bernardino County IT department, who owned the phone, to unlock it and unscramble data, reports Reuters. While the situation that unfolded in San Bernardino is unlikely to happen at your small business, there is a need to protect corporate data. Frost & Sullivan reports that the proliferation of mobile devices provides cyber criminals with yet another often unprotected entry point to launch an attack. In 2014, 60% of targeted cyberattacks were aimed at small business, according to Symantec.

However,  a survey conducted by Spiceworks a few years ago found that only 37% of small and midsize businesses were planning or planned to manage mobile devices using an MDM offering. Reasons for not deploying MDM included: security threat not perceived big enough to warrant the investment (49%); lack knowledge to proceed with the implementation (36%) and budgetary concerns (34%).

MDM offers a range of benefits

A survey from CDW in 2012 on small business mobility indicated that IT managers who deployed MDM technology reported that it gave them a “better grip on mobile devices and applications” to improve security (53 %), but that’s not all. Other benefits cited were:

  • 46% improved workforce productivity
  • 40% improved backup/disaster recovery
  • 34% improved ability to deploy apps
  • 33% reduced management costs

How to choose an MDM solution

There are a host of MDM suite vendors to choose from. Here are questions Spiceworks recommends you ask:

  • What devices does the solution support?
  • Does the solution integrate with my current systems?
  • Does the solution provide inventory capabilities?
  • Does the software patch automatically?
  • What kind of maintenance will the solution require?
  • Does the solution detect jail broken or rooted devices?
  • What kind of monitoring and reporting tools does it offer?

Mobile technology has changed the business landscape. MDM software can make it easier to manage how employees are using devices and apps to protect your company and your customers.