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Mobile Clinic: keeping mobile workforce management consistent

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Mobile Clinic The number one question that you all seem to be losing some sleep over is, 'How do we keep mobile device management consistent with the policies and procedures applied to the other devices on my corporate network?' Once again we roll out our illustrious panel of experts to tackle it for you, to give you some pointers and hopefully steer you in the right direction.

Some of you might have already nailed this problem, of course, in which case tell us how you do it – there's comment forms at the bottom of the article. It all helps.

Ed Moore, OpenWeb product manager, Openwave Europe
www.openwave.com

Where there’s a need, there’s a vendor willing to help...

Device management can now be extended from a corporate network of laptops and desktops to include mobile devices such as smart phones. To use third-party tools an ‘open’ platform such as Windows Mobile, PalmOS, Linux or Symbian is required, but within this there are a wide range of solutions possible. We are not yet at the stage of seamless integration with existing corporate tools, but it will come in time.

When applying policies, what should be considered the most important areas to consider?

Security

The most obvious is security; do I have a password, when should it be changed, auto-locking?

Application Management

Installing applications and keeping them updated with current releases.

Removing applications if no longer needed and carrying out inventory checks for licence compliance.

Settings Updates

Updating APNs and proxy settings plus application settings. You need to be careful this does not conflict with updates being sent from your mobile operator!

Manage Functions

Controlling access to functions on the handset; for example starting Bluetooth or shutting down the camera. This function can be useful in controlling costs as well as keeping staff focused, stopping video clip downloads, for example, can save data usage while also reducing the risk of 'inappropriate' content appearing on company machines.

Data Management

Backing up software and synchronising contacts.

An advantage you will have in managing smartphones is in the capability to 'reach out' to them, using the capabilities of the mobile network as each handset is unique and addressable wherever it is in the world. Sending an SMS message can trigger a device to connect to your management server, receiving updates when you want to schedule them.

An alternative approach, if data is all that’s required, would be to look at the newly emerging ultra-portable PCs. These are far below even sub-notebooks in size but are still able to run full versions of Microsoft Windows. Any policies and procedures that you apply to your normal laptops will apply equally to this class of machine, but may give a number of your users the access device they require, with a much reduced carrying weight. It does mean that in almost all cases you’re moving to a two-device situation, as all travelling staff these days will have a simple mobile phone, too, but this should not cause problems in most cases.

A word of warning on smartphones: your mobile operator may also be interested in controlling ‘his’ customers and not necessarily in the same way you are! Be aware of the potential for downloads from the operator or changing of settings, too, these may not always be notified to you in advance.

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