WelcomeWelcome to Admin


A Brave New World of Strained Symbiosis

As I sit here writing the introduction for this issue of ADMIN on my iPad, I realize many of you are facing the newest conundrum striking your overfilled plates: Mobile Device Management. There's possibly no greater joy than having management heap another ton of complexity onto your already heavily laden backs. Mobile devices present a new frontier of challenges and opportunities for businesses. Adding hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of mobile devices to the mix places more strain between the ever-demanding user and the ever-cautious system administrator. It's the dawn of the Mobile Enterprise, and you need to come to terms with it now or forever hold your peace.

Your first task, after the consumption of many caffeinated beverages, is to assess just how many devices you're faced with adding to your list of managed systems. A good estimate is one device per user. Some users will have multiple devices, and a few will have none. This single fact could triple, quadruple, or more-ple the number of managed devices on your network.

The next task isn't as easy. For it, you must tally the different mobile device types you deal with. Think of the possible options facing you: Windows Mobile's various versions, Android's many iterations and formats, Apple's iOS-based devices, Blackberry, and perhaps even the stray WebOS phone or tablet. You've added a new complex variable to this recipe for less sleep and more caffeine. Your best bet is to rely on a trusted Mobile Device Management (MDM) or Mobile Application Management (MAM) software suite. You'll need one that supports all possible device types, that has a remote "wipe" capability built into it, that includes Active Directory or LDAP support, and that intrudes as little as possible into the functionality of the devices themselves. After all, you don't need a thousand angry users emailing you about the fact that you've effectively "bricked" their devices. Take a deep breath and another double espresso.

It might sound like a new concept, but your job is to enable your users, not constrain them. In the "old" days of the 1990s, we thought we had to lock down our users and jail them to protect them from themselves. Falsely, we were protecting our jobs. We didn't realize no one wanted our jobs then nor do they want them today. And, until there's a truly "self-service" management user portal, you'll always have a job. However, you'll be employed longer by giving your users the freedom and access they need to do their jobs. Plus, without users botching up the works, you'd have no stories to tell your fellow admins while consuming those caffeinated beverages.

Mobile computing is here to stay, so you'd better get used to the idea of managing your user's mobile devices in a way that both protects your network and frees users to perform their work in an efficient and relatively unconstrained way. And, if your company has opened its doors to employee-owned devices or has adopted a formal "bring your own device" (BYOD) program, you have to find a way to manage those devices imperceptibly with a single app. You also have to decide how you'll deal with "jail-broken" devices. Hint: Most companies ban them. Do they still sell Jolt cola?

Unhappy users and frustrated, overly caffeinated system administrators are corporate staples. Without users, there'd be no need for us and without us, there'd be chaos. We'd all prefer to strike a balance between chaos and compliance – a symbiosis of kind – a strained symbiosis. A relationship where users and system administrators agree to disagree but still seek the common goals of productivity and profitability.

Coffee, tea, or rehab anyone?

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor