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Inside the EMM Decision: One Company's Tale

By - Source: Toms IT Pro
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About a year ago, Susan Hare decided it would be wise to bring mobile device management to her small, family-owned business. Technically her title is marketing director at Thrasher Termite & Pest Control in Los Gatos, California. But she wears a lot of hats. One of them, as she dubs it, is resident "techy geek."

Hare's goal in implementing mobile device management [MDM] was to ensure the company could access important data on company-issued cell phones. If an employee left — Trasher, for example — she wanted to make sure the company wouldn't be locked out of the device.

MORE: Mobile Device Management: What's Legal, What's Not

But implementation left Hare less than impressed. While somewhat useful, MDM has also been a major drain on time and resources.

"It seemed like such a great idea. When I researched [MDM], yes, that’s what smart companies do," Hare said. "But the technology is still really at the point where it's difficult for small businesses to manage. It's cumbersome."

Hare began by contacting MDM vendors. The first thing she learned is that they are hesitant to even engage in conversation with very small companies. Thrasher has about 40 employees, but only 12 field workers were using company-issued cell phones at the time.

Hare tried several free demos, only to discover that many of the MDM applications were too expensive or too difficult to use, she said. Many were best suited for larger businesses with dedicated IT departments. Eventually, she decided on Google Apps for Work Mobile Management for Android devices and Cisco Meraki for iOS devices because they seemed easier to use than similar products.

The rollout began slowly, with just a handful of devices that were due for renewal anyway. Hare wanted to test the MDM technology on a small scale before going "whole hog," she said.

There's peace of mind for Hare in knowing that Thrasher can access important company data on phones, if needed, and that devices can be locked remotely if they are lost or stolen. But the company hasn't had many occasions to test the technology, yet.

On one occasion, the technology did not work as hoped. Unable to locate a field worker, management used MDM to ping his phone. However, it turned out that locations were only updated every few hours, not in real time. "Sales people don't stay in one place," Hare said.

That, combined with the fact that rollout and management of MDM tools is time consuming for Hare, means the company is not likely to take advantage of other security features the technology offers.

"I didn't really see that it was sensible for small businesses. If you're a larger business with an IT department, then it becomes necessary," Hare said. "Also, if you're an accounting firm, you probably need more security. A pest control service? Not so much."

"The technology is implemented, but have we done anything with it? Are we going to add more devices? The answer is probably no."

SMB Advice

Before you implement an MDM tool, develop a plan for how and when you’re going to roll out the technology, and make sure someone in your company has the technical knowledge and time to oversee the process.

"If you don't have that person, don't do it. It does take a level of technical expertise," Hare said. "Keep in mind that person is also the de facto IT support for employees when they have a problem with the device. This became my job."

A year later, Thrasher is moving in an entirely different direction with mobile devices: bring-your-own-device [BYOD] policies.

Using Zendesk's Sideline app, Thrasher can assign a second phone number to personal phones that is used strictly for business purposes, including work calls, emails and texts. When a call or message comes in, the caller ID screen indicates whether the communication is work or personal. The cost is $2.99 per month per device.

While access to information on employee-owned phones is very limited using the app, Thrasher has found that employees prefer using their own phones, rather than carrying two.

Thrasher now offers a financial incentive for employees who are willing to use their own mobile devices for work. Some 70 percent of employees have taken advantage of the offer.

"BYOD is what we’re going to do going forward," Hare said.

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