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MDM vs. MAM: Is Managing Apps or Devices Right for Your Business?

Comparing different approaches with advice on how to find the right mobile strategy

The assumption that Mobile Device Management (MDM) is the same as Mobile Application Management (MAM) is a popular misconception. In simple terms, MDM is about control of devices like smartphones and tablets, whereas MAM is focused on specific corporate applications and their related data. It’s very important to establish what you want to achieve with your mobile strategy, or you may find that you make the wrong decision.

The MDM market is expected to grow from $1.69 billion last year to $5.32 billion by 2021, according to ResearchandMarkets, and application management is expected to dominate the market during the forecast period. The fact that MAM is lumped in with MDM in this report highlights the perception problem.

Most companies have some form of MDM in place. The IT department can use MDM to enforce policies on smartphones and tablets. It allows them to remotely track, lock, encrypt, and wipe devices. MAM, which is fast growing in popularity, allows IT departments to remotely control, encrypt, and wipe, just the corporate apps and data on an employee’s smartphone or tablet.

The relative merits of each system are best explained with practical examples.

When is MDM not enough?

Imagine an enterprise with an MDM system in place that enables it to enroll devices, track them, and wipe them if they’re lost. The company commissions a line of business application that manages revenue and wants to put it out on employee devices.

The dangerous assumption that MDM will suffice is quickly exposed, because MDM doesn’t allow you to track and control the data within the application or the transmission process for the application. The app must be redesigned. To install the revised data and applications, and then effectively manage it appropriately, necessitates multiple visits to the devices.

If you’re providing corporate devices and you’re happy for staff to use native applications and install personal apps, secure in the knowledge that you can remotely wipe the device if you have to, then MDM will cover your needs.

What does MAM bring to the table?

Enterprise app stores are growing in popularity, with 35% of respondents to Apperian’s 2016 Executive Enterprise Mobility Report, now using them, up from 23% in 2015. If you want to have an enterprise app store, then you need an MAM solution. It delivers the ability to separate personal apps from corporate. You can securely sandbox corporate apps and data, and ensure that data is transmitted safely via VPN, to mitigate the risk of data leaks. You can also manage and update those apps remotely.

This approach can be especially useful in a BYOD scenario, where you no longer have a fleet of corporate mobile devices, but instead allow employees to use their own smartphones. Privacy can be an issue here, and the control that MDM offers might not be suitable for employee-owned devices. That’s where something like Citrix XenMobile can offer a MAM-only approach, which doesn’t require device enrolment.

MAM gives you application-level encryption and security policies that work regardless of device security. Containerization restricts data sharing, so users can install whatever personal apps they want.

With MAM, your IT department has a powerful set of granular controls for managing and securing app data. A good MAM partner will also help you to test your applications and keep them running when phone manufacturers put out operating system updates that can cause issues.

The right mix

It’s important to remember that MDM and MAM are not mutually exclusive. If your needs are very specific, then it may make sense from a cost perspective to focus on one over the other, but for most companies a mixture of the two will provide the greatest level of control and security. Some employees will only require MDM on their smartphones, while others that need access to more sensitive data through corporate apps can be covered by MAM.

Consider that 2016 was a record year for data breaches, with 4,149 breaches exposing more than 4.2 billion records, according to Risk Based Security. There’s a tangible risk for companies that don’t get their mobile strategy right, and so it’s vital to employ the right blend of MDM and MAM if you want to protect your data and your customers.


Photo by Tim Gouw

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