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Tips for businesses for managing mobile devices

(Public Domain Photo)

Q: What suggestions do you have for managing the mobile devices in our business?

It’s no secret that more business is being done on mobile devices then ever before, as mobile Internet access surpassed desktop usage for the first time back in November.

Since these devices have become so invaluable for conducting business, every business should be thinking about how to manage them.

Single biggest risk

The likelihood of a mobile device being lost or stolen is exponentially higher than a desktop computer, so planning for this eventuality is critical.

Since passwords and access codes are commonly stored in browsers and apps, anyone that gets their hands on an unprotected mobile device can instantly assume the identity of the victim and wreak major havoc.

Computers, tablets and smartphones that don’t require a password or passcode in order to use them should be strictly prohibited in any business.

Basic protection layers

Even with an access password enabled, a motivated thief can make their way to your sensitive data, so using some form of encryption and installing a remote tracking program provides additional layers of protection.

Apple devices running iOS 8 or higher are encrypted by default and Android users can search for “encryption” in their settings menu to activate it.

While both Apple and Google offer free tools that will allow you to track, lock down and remotely erase lost devices, they lack some of the more useful features available in third-party options.

Pictures can help recovery

One of my long-standing favorites is Prey because it adds the ability to take screenshots on laptops as well as take pictures of the user from the camera(s) on any of your mobile devices.

This can become critical, because simply determining the general location of a device isn’t much help if it’s a huge apartment complex or a 20-story commercial building. Your chances of getting any type of help from law enforcement goes up if you can provide more than just location information.

The free version of Prey covers up to three devices, but no longer includes the ability to remotely erase your data. You can either opt for their $5 a month package for that feature or use Prey along with the free tools offered by Apple or Google.

Large-scale systems

If you have a large number of devices to manage, you’ll want a more sophisticated platform. Prey offers customized business packages, but for a much more comprehensive set of tools, look to solutions such as AirWatch from VMware, Meraki from Cisco or Intune from Microsoft.

These tools dramatically expand your management capabilities to include limiting the mobile devices that can connect to your network, controlling what data those devices have access to and various tools that makes deploying and managing a large number of devices much more efficient.

These more sophisticated tools allow IT managers to better control what can be done when an employee is using their personal device for business without restricting their personal needs.

The cost of these more sophisticated tools can range from a per device charge (starting at$2.50 a month for AirWatch Express) to a per-user charge used by Microsoft.

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