For all its believers and detractors, the remote workforce appears to be here to stay. The most recent McKinsey American Opportunity Survey indicates that 58 percent of Americans report having the opportunity to work remotely at least once a week, and that of those offered remote-flexibility 87 percent will take it. To many, this may be no surprise – remote work offers a variety of conveniences – but this shift of environment does, inevitably, open up new risks and roadblocks. During the 2020 pandemic many organizations accepted these risks as a temporary measure, but as this industry trend appears to be solidifying into a permanent shift, a more permanent solution should be considered to reinforce this new, broader attack surface. One tool that’s stellar for this application is a Mobile Device Management solution.
A Mobile Device Management solution (or MDM) is a package of software that aims to allow for centralized management of mobile devices (like cell phones, laptops, or other devices that move) in what is inherently a decentralized environment. The value of this capability is higher than ever before, as previously many endpoints were static, being used exclusively in a controlled network within a controlled location allowing for simplified administration, configuration, and security. MDM provides a means to reclaim these benefits by establishing a connection from the device, or client, to the MDM server, through which said devices may be remotely monitored and managed. If this description of MDM capabilities sounds broad, that’s because its utility truly is. Here are some specifics to explain how the right MDM solution can simplify the organization, boost the security, and ultimately reduce the expenses of your remote workforce.
One notoriously tricky aspect of remote workforce management is accounting for the statuses of company devices in an environment where IT personnel don’t have direct access to them. This can make processes like maintaining hardware/software inventory and pushing new software or updates challenging. A MDM solution can make these organizational tasks a cinch – the devices registered within it can be centrally viewed and audited for their status, assigned user, and software versions amongst other factors. In the event an update needs to be pushed to many devices the MDM can be used to easily select the devices to update along with a scheduled time for it. These features come together to make the maintenance and standardization of remote devices exponentially more efficient, and thus also help keep IT infrastructure scalable.
Delving more into the benefits of simplified auditing and standardization of MDM reveals the impressive extent to which it improves remote security. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and so an organization can have a painstakingly manicured security policy and exhaustive controls but still be highly vulnerable if these security measures are not enforced universally. MDM provides a means to ensure that all devices connected are abiding by a defined secure configuration (think firewall settings, VPNs, and enforced encryption) with the capability to adjust said configuration en-masse, leaving no room for weak links to slip by unnoticed.
An additional concern with remote work is that with the lack of a controlled environment comes an increased risk of device loss or theft. To compensate for this an MDM offers capability for GPS tracking on devices to boost odds of recovery, as well as capability for a remote-lock and data wipe in the event recovery is not possible. The deletion of data in these circumstances is of small consequence thanks to another common feature of MDM – automated data backups, with capability of easy device restorations. These features as a package make MDM a highly valuable component of a remote security posture, and as such are commonly recommended for compliance as well as in remediating risk assessment findings.
Understanding that implementing MDM represents an investment in the IT infrastructure of an organization, an all-important point to address is how that investment recoups its cost. To this end MDM can provide value in a number of ways, but two categories stand out as the most significant:
One major source of value MDM generates is present in the sheer reduction of time costs its proper use entails. The fact that MDM streamlines the organization and standardization of the remote workforce means that IT personnel can far more efficiently identify, troubleshoot, and remediate issues, notably with an increased ability to do so remotely. This saves not only the premium-priced time of IT staff but also reduces downtime for non-technical staff, as devices won’t require as much time to be fixed or shipped. Even in the event of a device requiring replacement MDM confers time savings through its considerable increase in deployment speed, made possible through automated configuration and restoration of data backups. This decrease in downtime leads to an increase in productivity, and this benefit only scales upward with your organization.
The second and possibly more significant way MDM generates value is through cost avoidance, specifically through its ability to mitigate information security risks. It’s widely reported just how cripplingly expensive a data breach can be for businesses of any size, and with mobile devices containing sensitive data these breaches can oftentimes be no more than a security misconfiguration or phone swipe away. MDM can help mitigate this risk through the enhanced security baselining, monitoring, and remote remediation capabilities it brings. Even one prevented breach can justify an MDM’s cost multiple times over – not to mention the near-priceless benefits of sparing your brand’s image and reputation.
Considering the value proposition MDM brings to the table it becomes clear why these solutions are so attractive to remote workforces. The adoption numbers back this up – MDM market growth is growing quickly alongside remote workforce/Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) utilization, with a MarketsandMarkets report forecasting the MDM market to quadruple its current size to $20.4 billion by 2026. As with any investment the purchase of an MDM tool warrants thoughtful consideration – but for the value it brings, it’s a consideration most any remote workforce should be making.
Need help securing your remote environment? Let CyberData Pros perform a risk assessment and walk you through the process of finding a solution that fits your posture. Contact us now for a free consultation and to learn more about our services.