Have you ever tried to create a major slide presentation on a tablet? Or edit a large spreadsheet? Or write a long document? Probably not. While it’s certainly possible to perform more substantial business tasks on a tablet, the small screen real estate and limited system resources (e.g., processing speed, memory, graphic support, etc.) are typically insufficient in current tablet form factors. However, carrying a laptop around with you everywhere you go just so you can access email is not very practical either. The reality is that we live in a multi-device world where the average worker employs 3 – 5 different computing devices in the regular performance of their job function. . . . and I would argue that’s exactly how it should be. Each user employs the device they prefer to optimally perform tasks at any particular time or place.
From an IT management perspective, though, supporting an increasing number of disparate devices creates a number of challenges. Where previously IT administrators only needed to support one or two PC platforms (Windows and Mac), now they must also manage a wide variety of mobile environments (e.g., iOS, Android, BlackBerry, etc.) and a diverse set of device architectures. Making matters worse is the fact that mobile management platforms were principally developed independent of PC management platforms. Recognizing this deficiency, IT management vendors are taking steps to introduce Unified Endpoint Management solutions that provide support for all managed endpoints from a single console interface.
2015 is poised to be a landmark year in the introduction of Unified Endpoint Management capabilities. Here are the top 5 currently trending solutions and best practices being adopted to enable unified PC and mobile management:
- Integrated Management Console – Administrators should be able to access all PC and mobile management resources from a single console interface. This minimizes support efforts, reduces training requirements, and enables consolidated reporting and alarming across all managed devices.
- Consolidated Role-Based Access – Essential to simplifying and standardizing administrative practices is the ability to manage collective groups of end users. Role-based access allows administrators to create profiles for groups of users based on their job role (e.g., accountants, sales managers, marketers, developers, etc.). Profiles that identify access privileges and configuration settings for both PC and mobile devices should reference a common set of user roles. One way of achieving this is to leverage roles that have already been defined in a centralized listing service, such as Active Directory, that is directly accessible by each management platform.
- Establishing a Common Workspace – Users are most productive when they are able to access the same resources in the same way on different devices. Current methods for achieving this include virtual desktops that are accessible on all user devices, web-hosted workspace environments that are accessible from any device with an HTML browser, and workspace policy engines that automatically install and configure compatible applications on endpoint devices to provide consistent user experiences.
- Mutually Accessible Data Repositories – In most organizations, business-critical data is distributed across enterprise servers and clients and must be accessed via a variety of different processes depending on the type of device being used. Lacking simple and effective methods for transferring files and data records, users most often resort to employing unsecured email or an external resource (such as Dropbox) in order to transfer a file from one device to another. Providing a common and secure data repository that is easily accessible from all device types ensures users are able to rapidly access data files without violating business requirements.
- Standardized User Self-Service – Today’s more technology-oriented users prefer to be self-sufficient in the employment of their computing resources. Standardized services for provisioning applications and accessing business services should be enabled for all supported devices to establish consistent and easily performed user practices. Not only will this empower end users with control over how their devices are used, it will also minimize the amount of effort IT administrators must invest in performing mundane day-to-day operations.
Collectively, the introduction of these trending capabilities lays the foundation for true Unified Endpoint Management. Looking further out than 2015, future trends can be expected that create unified user polices for both PC and mobile devices. Also, common application and workspace containers will be enabled for both platforms. Ultimately, we will cease to differentiate between PC and mobile management altogether. Instead, IT administrators will employ one set of management practices and automation tools to seamlessly provision, support, and secure business resources on every endpoint in exactly the same way. In the meantime, EMA highly recommends organizations seeking to adopt a mobile management platform look for solutions that are focused on delivering key elements for enabling Unified Endpoint Management.