SOTI EMM offers low TCO for enterprise devices

Many mobile device management (MDM) systems cope well with smart phone and tablet devices, but what about everything else? Many corporate networks feature all kinds of devices, and many of them have computing power built in. That makes them potential security risks which should be managed.

SOTI has just released version 12 of its MobiControl product, which is designed to manage companies’ collections of mobile devices. It is focusing on a broader range of devices than smartphones. The software supports everything from iPads through to barcode scanners and rugged printers, the firm said.

SOTI has introduced several new features in the latest version of its software, and many of them are designed to reduce the cost of ownership by slashing administrative tasks. It believes it can save businesses up to $100 per device in provisioning costs by using ‘zero-intervention’ provisioning. The idea of assigning configurations via a network connection reduces the need for manual labour and site visits.

Users can involve their own devices on the system by simply clicking a URL, the company said, adding that it has added support for peripherals from Zebra Technologies. Zebra is a provider of rugged handheld devices, ranging from barcode scanners through to printers.

SOTI is also highlighting the rise of Android in the enterprise. Traditionally, Android has been a problem for the enterprise, because it is not as locked down as Apple’s iOS. While this can be advantageous (it’s easier to modify the kernel and building malware scanners, for example) for most companies without internal development resources, it can be a source of malicious apps installed by users.

This will become an increasingly important part of corporate mobile device management, given the low cost of Android devices relative to Apple mobile products. SOTI has supported Android for a while, and we are already seeing various MDM vendors such as MobileIron and Maas360 supporting this operating system.

Last summer, Google launched an initiative called Android for Work. This includes a variant of Android with enterprise malware scanning capabilities built in, so there will be some competition from the creator of the operating system.

Nevertheless, MDM tools offer far more than simple malware scanning capabilities, and SOTI’s aim is to draw all devices into a single workflow, enabling organizations to control the devices on the network from cradle to grave.

In addition to the traditional MDM features, such as application scanning and controlled email access, one particular function of MobiControl caught our eye: geofencing. The idea is to control certain functions on a device depending on where it is. For example, a company may want to prohibit any employee working in a factory from taking pictures beyond a certain point, so that details of new products stay private.

All of these things are features that will make their way into mobile device management products over time, or bolster another category: enterprise mobility management (EMM), which is a category that analyst firm Gartner is already switching its focus to. If the Internet of Things concept becomes as widespread as vendors believe, mobility will continue to extend far beyond smart phones into entirely new realms. Securing and keeping tabs on those devices will be a significant challenge for companies.

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Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with over 20 years' experience writing about security, software development, and networking.

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