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Enterprise Mobile Device Management Over the Air

One of the most important elements of any mobile device security management product is the ability to manage devices over the air (OTA). Given the mobile nature of these devices, no strategy would be successful if it required devices to be physically connected to a machine or network periodically.

OTA management is available for every manageable function. Not only does this allow you to manage devices without ever physically touching them, but it also allows you to centrally manage groups of devices all at once, greatly reducing the time spent on this task.

Commands are sent to mobile devices one of two ways:

  • SMS: One popular way to send commands to a mobile device is to use short message service (SMS – text messages). For example, an SMS might be sent to a mobile device as part of an enrollment process, with a URL pointing to the MDM (mobile device management) server, allowing the user to add a new device under management.

    One of the most compelling attributes of SMS is the fact that it is available nearly everywhere. A common example is when a device is roaming into a different country – the user might choose to turn off data services, rendering push notifications useless, but SMS will likely still be available.

    A downside of SMS management is that it is available only on devices that are connected to a mobile network with a 3G or 4G radio. Increasingly popular Wi-Fi only tablets and other mobile devices cannot be managed via SMS.

  • Push notification: Push notification services are available on many popular mobile device platforms. Push notification accomplishes the same goal as SMS, but leverages Internet-based communication channels to manage the device.

    Push notification mechanisms are attractive because they leverage a reliable communications mechanism so that the sender of the notification knows whether that notification reached the end destination. Additionally, a push notification can handle any amount of data and is not generally subject to per-message charges, as is the case with SMS.

    A downside of using an Internet-based management channel is that it requires Internet access in order to work. If a user has disabled her data connection, such as when roaming, important updates and notifications might not be possible on that device until she connects to the data service once again.

Your MDM solution might leverage one or both of these techniques in order to manage mobile devices. The most robust MDM solutions will leverage both of these techniques as applicable for specific devices and situations.

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