Zenprise's New MDM Tools Emphasize Collaboration Needs - InformationWeek

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9/7/2012
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Zenprise's New MDM Tools Emphasize Collaboration Needs

New MobileManager tools extend remote collaboration, such as native Microsoft SharePoint access, to Android devices.

Zenprise on Monday released a new version of its MobileManager mobile device management (MDM) product that extends remote collaboration, such as native Microsoft SharePoint access, to Android devices. (It had previously been available only to iOS users.) Version 7.0 also includes simplified interfaces for both end users and IT administrators and utilities for retail and services businesses.

The upgrades could allow Zenprise, which supports a wide variety of mobile platforms, to differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive market. The MDM field has been galvanized by mobile workforce growth and the BYOD movement, as well as new retail and service opportunities enabled by tablets and smartphones.

MobileManager 7.0's new geo-fencing technology allows IT managers to define an approved area in which a device is authorized to access sensitive data. Each mobile unit is tracked via GPS, and if the device leaves the sanctioned space MobileManager will trigger a response, such as purging the phone or tablet of corporate-owned content. Administrators are able to granularly adjust the scope of responses based on specific company needs and policies.

Zenprise CMO Ahmed Datoo said in an interview that this security precaution has many applications. Doctors, for example, can accelerate patient care by using tablets to access and modify medical records--but if a physician accidentally leaves the hospital with an institution-issued device, or if a unit is lost or stolen, MobileManager ensures that confidential material won't be compromised.

MobileManager's integration with Samsung SAFE devices enables mobile devices to be used as purpose-specific mobile terminals. Datoo said this allows more businesses to offer the customer experience that Apple has pioneered in its retail stores, in which "you no longer wait at a counter but instead people come to you." He said that terminals could be physically secured in large enclosures, but that that MobileManager 7.0 allows businesses to preserve the mobile devices' appealing, elegant designs and mobility.

MobileManager 7.0 also targets traditional enterprise needs by offering improved collaboration tools. Notably, MobileManager maintains file accessibility by storing data locally on each device. Amit Pandey, Zenprise CEO and president, said in an interview that productivity takes a hit when data is accessed exclusively through the cloud or mediated through a virtual machine. To illustrate, he cited shoddy network connections and the problems faced by frequent travelers who need to access material while on airplanes. Pandey noted that security is maintained through MobileManager's geo-fencing and the encryption it applies to apps running within the client.

Version 7.0 also adds annotation features to iOS devices. Modifications are automatically pushed to the server, allowing MobileManager to support near-real-time teamwork among remote workers. It also preserves previous versions of files, meaning that hasty or ill-conceived document modifications do not overwrite earlier drafts. The company plans to extend annotation function to Android devices in the future.

On the back end, MobileManager's IT dashboard allows administrators to set permissions that limit not only who can access given files but also how those files can be used. The dashboard is highly intuitive and streamlined with features, such as one-click activation of new devices, to simplify or automate many processes. Getting employees to adopt MDM policies, Datoo claimed, must be "as frictionless as possible. If you make the process overly onerous, they won't adhere to it."

MobileManager 7.0 faces competition. Good Technology's recent acquistion of Copiun, for instance, will allow the company to offer collaboration tools, including SharePoint support, comparable to those Zenprise has unveiled. Nonetheless, with novel functions such as geo-fencing, a simple user interface, and control over how much data is synched and thus how much data transfer costs a company absorbs, Zenprise appears to be on a path to differentiating itself in a crowded market.

MobileManager 7.0 is now available. Pricing starts at $4 per month for each device, with discounts available based on volume and term duration.

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