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A Buyer's Guide to Mobile Management Services

The number of challenges posed by the mobile workforce isn't decreasing, and the costs associated with supporting mobile employees is increasing. With researchers claiming a 70 percent cost difference between companies confronting the mobile management challenge, it's time to learn about your choices.

Used to be, mobile device management meant mobile IT had to oversee laptops, wireless network security, mobile Internet connections, the occasional use of mobile VoIP and BlackBerry applications, or maybe a fleet of ruggedized handhelds using RFID. Now, that's all changed. The use of employee -owned smartphones in the enterprise has exploded over that last couple of years, thanks -- to a large extent -- to the success of the iPhone. In total, the number of employee-liable devices used in enterprises quadrupled during 2008 according to research from Aberdeen Group.

This growth shows no sign of slowing: the latest figures from Strategy Analytics found smartphone sales worldwide in the final quarter of 2009 were up 30 percent year-on-year with Nokia, Research In Motion (RIM) and Apple the big winners. Part of the reason for the huge growth in employee-liable device use is that it has been encouraged by many organizations who see it as a cost-effective way of propagating mobility. These enterprises also want to take advantage of the productivity benefits that this increased mobility can bring, according to Andrew Borg, senior research analyst at Aberdeen. But in order to realize these benefits, Borg said, this heterogeneous fleet of mobile devices needs to be controlled, monitored and managed. To do this effectively, organizations need a mobility management system of some form or another, either run in-house, or accessed as a service. The good news is that there is no shortage of choice, with very strong offerings from relatively unknown companies such as MobileIron, Zenprise and Good Technology, as well as products from more recognizable names such as Sybase, Microsoft and RIM. Additionally, there's white-labeled products from the international carriers. The problem then is not where to find a mobility management system, but how to choose the most appropriate one for your organization's needs. Selecting one is made harder by the fact that the market is changing so quickly -- with each vendor adding features and functionality on a regular basis -- as the number of mobile platforms keeps expanding. To help you assess the market, here are five questions that you need to ask any vendor:

Read "Buyer's Guide: 5 Key Considerations for Mobile Management Software" at Enterprise Mobile Today