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Interview: It’s time to rename MDM to Modern Device Management

By Sara Barker
Mon 8 Mar 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Hand on heart, do you know all the devices connecting to and downloading your corporate information and can you wipe them remotely if needed?  Does your process for distributing a device to a new employee, or just replacing a device for an existing employee, cost you time and money?  Are you making the most out of your Microsoft 365 investment to secure your workforce?  Are you confident your edge devices are secure, and do you trust them?

We spoke to Mobile Mentor’s Australian managing director Randall Cameron and New Zealand’s head of sales Jared Pedersen to learn more about modern device management.

Mobile Mentor is a Microsoft Gold Partner and service provider to organisations both big and small and was founded in 2004 to empower people to use their mobiles.

With origins hailing back to the early Nokia phone, mobile device management is a similar - though altogether different beast from what it once was. These days it's not about synching cords, it's about over-the-air updates to tens of thousands of devices in all organisations, large and small.

"What it's really about now is who's got what, and where are they? What version of the device are they using? Has the device got a passcode lock on it? Have they lost it? What apps do they need to put on it? What apps do we need to remove from it? The word mobile means it's a mobile asset," says Cameron.

In 2020 the importance of mobile device management reached new heights as people deserted offices and started working from home. Every workplace device required mobile device management because every worker suddenly became a remote employee.

Pedersen adds that this evolution has prompted MDM to become domainless - there's no need for on-premise and domain infrastructure, no need for system centre config manager servers (SCCMs) - everything can now be done remotely.

With this mass evolution of mobile devices came what Cameron refers to as the birth of 'modern device management' - the concept that every company device - no matter whether it's Apple’s iOS or macOS, Google’s Android or Microsoft’s Windows 10, they all must be managed remotely.

For example, imagine a lockdown situation in which an employee requests a new laptop. Traditionally a laptop would take a week or so to be provisioned and configured by IT before it even landed in an employee's hands. Many organisations hit this challenge during COVID lockdowns.

"Why should you give your laptop away just so you can use it?" asks Cameron. "Just like your phone, you should be able to get it out of the box so that it knows who you are, applies the right settings, and it's all done over the air automatically."

With modern device management, you can ship devices directly to employees from the manufacturer and provide remote support through the device’s entire lifecycle.

The Six Pillars of Modern Management

Mobile Mentor's whitepaper The Six Pillars of Modern Management expands on some of these points to explain that, ultimately, modern device management isn't just about making it more convenient for employees - it's also about business continuity and value creation.  It includes transformative concepts like over the air updates, cloud data, remote support, zero trust provisioning, passwordless authentication, and zero trust networks.

Pedersen says that these pillars combine device management and the user experience that employees will receive. 

"It's important to have safe, secure, and manageable devices but also to have productive staff who can work in the cloud, remotely.  As an example, a Zero Trust network provides this flexibility."

"Traditional security outside the office meant connecting to a VPN to access the enterprise network.  This caused a lot of pain during the COVID crisis." 

With cloud data and proper controls, employees can access files and information securely from anywhere without the need for a clunky, work throttling VPN. While not every company can immediately make the switch, many can.

Zero trust networks have gained steady popularity as a form of securing corporate networks and applications by granting or denying access based on a series of risk factors. Now commonly integrated into organisations' security postures, it is just as important to incorporate this into device management as well.

Cameron explains, "Zero trust includes verifying who and where a person is. But there's more to it than that - imagine I was in my office on level 10, where I accessed corporate information on a corporate network, and I'm registered to a device management platform that knows my device. When I open an app, it should automatically open because all the checks have taken place. But what happens if I decide to go to the coffee shop on level 1 of the same building? I'm still in the building, but I'm not within the office space or on the office network. What should happen when I try to open the same app? It could be a light authentication check, for example."

This is possible with modern device management, which uses modern authentication and conditional access.

Security must be balanced against the employee experience to make sure that both are maturing at a similar rate. Zero trust also needs to scale out as perimeters scale, all of which can be done over the air through cloud data.

Forget coming back to the office - the future of modern device management is remote

"All devices need to have a remote management or modern device management capability," says Cameron.

Organisations that previously managed mobiles must now manage Windows PCs and Macs - and the good news is that they can be managed in the same way as mobiles.

"Manage your PC like a mobile phone. With one platform you can save costs, be more secure, and delight employees at the same time," adds Pedersen. "Mobile Mentor specialises in the Microsoft stack, but we have years of heritage right back to Nokia and BlackBerry and other competing technologies that underpin device management."

Cameron adds, "We understand that there are many challenges that organisations will face in the device management journey. We can help organisations build a plan and free themselves from the constraints of traditional device management processes."

Learn more about Mobile Mentor 

Mobile Mentor is a Microsoft Gold Partner and is certified by Microsoft, Apple, and Google. The company operates in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States and proudly serves healthcare, government, education, and private industry. Check out the company's services here.

Read The Six Pillars of Modern Management whitepaper here.

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