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BYOD: A Comprehensive Guide

Dozens of security and IT management vendors on the market claim to offer BYOD management capabilities, and more products are being released every day. It's no wonder IT buyers have a difficult time making sense of the market. And things are getting tougher as technology decision makers sort through a variety of product categories that address different sets of challenges, such as device management, application control and network access. When everything is tagged as a BYOD solution, the label ceases to have much meaning.

"We understand IT's reticence to cut a purchase order," wrote Denise Culver, author of the report 40 BYOD Vendors, One Confusing Market. "These suites tend to lack clarity in terms of what they're called, how they're distinguished, and what they do and don't do."

At present, the BYOD market can be divided into three categories: mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM) and WLAN access control. Products in all three categories can generally be used on both employee-owned and corporate-owned devices, but the similarities end there.

Generally speaking, an MDM product manages devices. It can discover and provision devices, back up data and remotely wipe a device's hard drive, among other capabilities. A MAM manages what applications users can download and what data those applications can access based on predefined rules. A MAM product can also provide an organization-wide inventory of installed software and push out software updates when they're available. WLAN management or NAC products can enforce access controls on mobile devices that connect to the corporate wireless network, including both employee and guest access for laptops, smartphones and tablets.

While each of these categories are useful to help distinguish a product's features, the confusion lies in the frequent bleed-over of functionality from one category into the next--for instance, some MDM products have limited MAM features and vice versa.

In the report, Culver and the InformationWeek Reports team queried 40 vendors about their mobility management products, and found that even the vendors themselves were unclear as to what differentiated the three categories of MAM and MDM, and whether BYOD is itself a category.

This is one reason why Lisa Phifer, president of consultancy Core Competence, told Culver that BYOD is such a deceptive descriptor for mobility security and management products. "'BYOD product' is an intentionally vague blanket term used by just about everybody, with any kind of product, to generate buyer interest," Phifer said in the report.

The takeaway? First, figure out exactly what problems you're trying to solve around mobile devices. When you're ready, investigate your options, ignore labels and compare the capabilities and functionality of the products, regardless of how they're marketed, the report recommended.

The report includes responses from 40 vendors on 23 capabilities.

Next: The Need Is Real

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