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Centrify Sets Mobile Device Management Free

Maintaining control of mobile devices in a company might be a challenge, but it's becoming a less costly one.

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Centrify Corporation has a Valentine's Day gift for IT administrators. The security and compliance company on Tuesday plans to launch a free cloud-based mobile device management service.

Centrify Express for Mobile, available at no charge, with no device limit and no support, allows businesses to manage employee smartphones and tablets--Android and iOS devices, but not BlackBerry or Windows Phone 7--through existing Microsoft Active Directory infrastructure.

"I'm hoping this can be somewhat disruptive in the mobile device management market," said company founder and CEO Tom Kemp in a phone interview.

Support costs money. The paid version of the product, called Centrify Direct Control for Mobile, starts at $24 per device per year. That compares favorably to a similar offering from competing security company MobileIron, which charges $48 per device per year for its cloud device management service.

But Kemp suggests not everyone will need the paid version. "A lot of this capability should be commoditized," he said, adding that future features will provide more differentiation between the paid and free offerings.

[ Read our Mobile Device Management Buyer's Guide. ]

IT administrators have had their hands full dealing with the increasingly diverse devices in corporate computing environments. Thanks to the consumerization of IT, employees are bringing their own mobile phones, tablets, and laptops into the workplace and Macs are once again significant enough to be counted in enterprises.

Kemp says that IT departments are concerned about personally-supplied devices because smartphones and tablets from home don't come with support for company policies.

Centrify Express for Mobile and Direct Control for Mobile allow IT administrators to enforce mobile security policies and to ensure secure access to email, VPN, and Wi-Fi networks. The software supports self-service enrollment and automated configuration based on Active Directory settings. It can identify enrolled devices and installed apps, detect and (if necessary) block jailbroken devices, and even erase data on lost or stolen devices.

Though some organizations still maintain policies that require business-issued devices, many companies have accepted the challenge of trying to manage the full spectrum of corporate and personal devices because employee-acquired hardware doesn't have to be purchased or because they realize that resistance won't prevent people from using their favorite tools.

Kemp says that Centrify's service runs in the cloud and doesn't require a separate mobile device management console. Instead, organizations can just rely on familiar Active Directory tools. The only on-premises adjustment organizations need to make is to run a proxy server as a Windows service, to communicate with Centrify's servers.

Either the free or paid mobile service can connect with Centrify Suite 2012, the company's software for managing cross-platform desktop systems (Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows) and applications using Active Directory.

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