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How MDM works — or doesn't work — for SMBs

Grant Hatchimonji | April 9, 2014
Not every company is big enough to implement traditional MDM solutions, but the smaller ones are still trying to find ways to manage their corporate data

Like Lingenfelter, Shields concedes that malware and loss can be a concern. Likewise, he says that sensitive areas like email are at risk of being compromised without a management solution. That does not, however, spell out absolute necessity for smaller companies to implement something.

"Many of the smaller companies have to weigh those risks against getting the job done," he says. "In many cases, it's just not worth it."

Turning to alternative solutions

In the event that smaller businesses decide that they do, in fact, need some sort of solution but don't have the means to implement a traditional MDM set up, there are some alternative solutions to which they can turn. Lingenfelter says there is no shortage of small companies out there that implement some of these solutions, but they're not always satisfied.

"What we're seeing is two types of customers," says Lingenfelter. "There are the ones that have tried to do it on their own without a real managed solution — whether it's through their mail system like ActiveSync or freeware apps — and the others are the ones that simply say, 'This mobile space is really taking off and I have no idea what I'm doing. I have no budget and no IT team.'"

But regardless of their current state, Lingenfelter explains, the common need is that they want to have some level of control and make sure that their users are handling company data responsibly like the big organizations, but on a much simpler scale.

"This is something they want to be able to set up easily and be able to add and remove devices, check log history, etc. It's, 'Let's get it set up and we don't want to have to manage it or massage it a lot,'" says Lingenfelter. "These companies have either tried it on their own or don't have the time or the resources to understand the technology.

So what are some of the alternative solutions? As Shield points out, a number of MDM vendors support cloud versions of their solutions and have SMB packages with support for as many as 20 devices. "That's what I see a lot of SMBs doing today, going with their cloud version rather than trying to bring the heavy hitters in house," he says.

In other cases though, organizations jettison the concept of MDM all together and opt for using endpoint security suites from companies like Symantec or Norton. It's typically the slightly larger, mid-sized companies that tend to use secure network gateways and application reputation systems, according to Shields. The problem with this option, however, is that they don't have as strong of a user experience.


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