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Pure-Play vs.Platform MDM: Which Is The Best Fit For Your Company?

From the experts | Posted on July 23, 2012 by Lesley Morris

With the unabated growth of consumerization, Gartner Research recently stated that “mobile device management (MDM) is essential for IT success”. However, with so many options – which is best? There are several new companies in this space offering great solutions. Security vendors are expanding their offerings and you have major platform or systems management vendors adding ways to manage a variety of mobile devices.

Our own Director of Security Solutions Stephen Perciballi and Manager of Microsoft Solutions Architecture Tim McKellips recently sat down with the Softchoice Advisor to discuss the challenges and implications involved with managing this environment.

Softchoice Advisor: What is your overall opinion on pure-play versus platform mobile device management?

Stephen: Choosing the right solution depends on what you already have and what features you need. Today, it’s all about management, tomorrow it’ll be about security. For volume of features as well as security, a vendor focused on MDM is the way to go. Encrypting specific applications or using a container-type approach are examples of features available on more dedicated solutions.  Nonetheless, if you’re already leveraging a mature platform, you’ll get a better ROI and reduce total cost of ownership if you stick with it. Tim: We’re not comparing apples to apples here; they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive solutions. For example, you could be using one platform but plug in another solution for advanced features.

SA: Regarding security, what questions should IT managers be asking these vendors?

Stephen: Ask your vendors about compliance. How can you make sure each device is connected and cooperates? Tim: I think we should be more concerned about the internal conversation with our users and stakeholders. It may be more of a boardroom than a server room discussion. What are they going to use the device for? What are we going to allow them to access? Who will own the devices, us or the end-user?

Is there such a thing as being too secure?

Stephen: Absolutely. I can put the most effective way to secure your assets in three words: pull the plug. It’s the only way to keep your network 100 percent secure. Realistically, an organization can look at a container- type solution, however, you may encounter resistance from users who usually prefer using the device’s native applications. Tim: The freedom of BYOD isn’t about guaranteeing access. It’s about the joy and relationship around being able to use the technology of your choice. It’s in the company’s best interest to allow users a more productive device, however compromise is inevitable.

In reality, it all comes down to cost. What solution is most efficient?

Stephen: Keep in mind that cost to secure a system always ends up being 5 percent of the total spend on that solution. Pure-play MDM vendors tend to be most expensive, then security manufacturers, then systems management vendors. Having said that, building a systems management platform just for MDM might not be worth the extra cost and effort.

The release of Microsoft’s new Surface Tablet is an example of how user devices are constantly changing. Which solution is going to be most reliable in the long run?

Tim: Pure-play MDM solutions have a very specific mission, which affords them agility. Therefore, they can get to market faster than security and platform solutions. Due to the sheer number of variables and the breadth of their mission, security products and enterprise platforms haven’t been as flexible or quick to market as pure-play management tools. However, when they do get to market, they are serving a wider function that may fit better in an enterprise vision. The right solution for a customer depends on variables like timing and long term objectives.

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