The state of Michigan’s executive branch formerly frowned upon using personal tablets for government business, but that changed after Gov. Rick Snyder took office in 2011.
“We used to have a doctrine of ‘no,’ where we’d block tablets,” says Dan Lohrmann, chief security officer for Michigan. “Within a year of Gov. Snyder’s election, tablets had infiltrated the environment.”
IT needed a way to configure and control mobile devices, including smartphones, in accordance with security policies. However, the state didn’t have the staff or infrastructure needed to manage 17,000 users, some of whom have multiple devices.
Michigan opted for the Maas360 mobile device management service from Fiberlink (which is now an IBM company). MDM as a service enables the state to secure key aspects of mobile access, including requiring locked screens and passwords, remotely erasing a lost or stolen device and controlling app versions.
Cloud-based MDM from AirWatch, Citrix, Fiberlink, Good Technology and MobileIron, among others, can eliminate the need for skilled staff or infrastructure.
“You can get rolling with MDM a lot faster, and often with greater functionality and ease of use,” says Craig J. Mathias, principal with advisory firm Farpoint Group. MDM enables state and local governments to quickly scale to accommodate more users and devices. The IT department doesn't have to worry about acquiring more licenses or adding servers and storage; they simply boost their MDM subscriptions.
The city of Arvada, Colo., signed on with MobileIron’s MDM service to address its police department’s rollout of smartphones. “We needed to protect the data on those devices,” says Amy Storrs, mobile business analyst for the city. “If someone got ahold of those phones, they could access city email and evidence such as photos of crime scenes.”
With MobileIron, IT can set a phone to automatically lock if it hasn’t been used for a specified amount of time. In addition, if the phone is lost, it can be remotely locked while the device’s GPS is used to try to locate it. “The device is often very easy to get back, and it avoids us having to immediately wipe it,” Storrs says.
Other departments rely heavily on the version control capability for smartphones and tablets. The city has a storefront within MobileIron that holds 200 apps (both iOS and Android), and MDM ensures all users have the appropriate version. “If we have a software change, we can push it out to all users,” Storrs says.
The city of Stuart, Fla., is still in its infancy with its AirWatch MDM service, which is used to manage and secure email and file access for 50 users.
“More and more, city employees have the expectation that they’ll be able to carry out their jobs on their own smartphones and tablets,” says Kevin Edwards, the city’s information services director. “Using MDM as a service gets us closer to meeting this expectation.”
Edwards says cloud-based MDM trumps an on-premises deployment because the cloud service constantly upgrades its support for various device operating systems. “On the day that a new mobile OS launches, AirWatch is ready to go with support,” he says, adding this enables him to secure all BYOD users.