Enterprises that are rolling out smartphones to their workforces should opt for solutions that support comprehensive mobile device management (MDM) to ensure that their administrators can retain control of corporate information at all times, no matter where the user is, writes Deon Liebenberg, regional director for sub-Sahara Africa at Research In Motion (RIM).

Smartphones have vastly evolved from traditional mobile cell phones. They are powerful devices that can access and store valuable corporate information that is sent over a mobile network.
Since mobile devices are easily lost or stolen, companies need to take steps to secure the data that they store and to prevent unauthorised users from using them as a gateway into the corporate network. As such, companies should invest in MDM solutions that offer them capabilities for centralised device management, remote device provisioning and end-to-end security and control.
Let's consider each of these elements of a good MDM solution:
* Centralised device management – A single console that can be used to manage and control mobile assets no matter where they are located is imperative. Key attributes of such a system include: configuring an end-to-end mobile deployment; viewing or reporting on all device assets; ensuring policy compliance through IT settings; and managing security.
* Remote device provisioning – Administrators need the ability to remotely activate devices, deploy and control applications and upgrade system and application software – completely over-the-air, without users needing to plug in their devices or be at their computer.
* End-to-end security and control – A good MDM solution will offer a single console to manage and control all devices. Some other features to look for include the ability to protect corporate data stored on devices using strong encryption methods; IT controls to remotely lock, wipe or de-register devices in the event that they are lost or stolen; and the ability to wirelessly adjust security levels up or down or implement new policies without needing to touch devices.
* Procuring a solution – Successfully rolling out an MDM solution may demand that companies rethink their traditional approach to procuring mobile devices. Currently, some issue employees with a standard device to try to retain control and security, while others give users the freedom to choose their own devices (through subsidies or allowances).
An ideal approach for companies is to offer a selection of mobile devices that have different form factors and capabilities (to ensure user uptake), but that can be centrally managed and controlled for security reasons and that offer the same functions and capabilities.
This provides a consistent, reliable experience across all mobile devices, which is an enormous benefit to the help desk support teams of an enterprise and can impact the total cost of ownership. For optimal security, devices should be ordered, configured and shipped from a central location.
Setting the right policies
Another factor that is important in a MDM solution is the flexibility it gives IT administrators to set and enforce policies based on various requirements within the organisation. They need to be able to implement different sets of policies to be set for different groups within the organisation since different divisions and departments have different requirements and preferences for mobile devices.
For example, companies may want to restrict browser access to reduce data minutes, or provide only certain groups with access to certain mobile applications. It's important that IT can easily change polices remotely as needed without needing user interaction or to bring devices back into the office.
Enterprises also need to be able to align themselves with regulatory requirements that demand IT policy compliance for logging communications activity like phone calls, email messages and attachments for auditing purposes. Some examples include SOX [Sarbanes-Oxley Act] and The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard.
Normally organisations have existing security policies defined for their computer systems and networks, but these policies need to be refined to take into account a mobile deployment and to ensure that those same policies can be applied for mobile users.