Office 365 Strengthens Mobile Device Management TEE14

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Cloud first, mobile first. Remember that one? If you don’t, let us remind you that it’s the new Microsoft mantra that was chanted first by Satya Nadella on his first public outing as the company's new CEO.

Earlier this week at TechEd Europe, Microsoft talked a lot about securing social business in the cloud through Data Loss Prevention (DLP). Yesterday it talked about managing mobile data.

But this wasn’t just about managing mobile data and devices in a general sense, with a doff of the hat to Microsoft’s work on Windows Phone. This was about managing mobile devices and data specifically for Office 365.

Problems with BYOD

Bring your own device (BYOD) strategies are increasingly prevalent in enterprises, particularly those that have a large workforce on the road. While many companies will offer approved mobile devices to workers, an increasing number prefer to use devices they have purchased themselves.

In principal, there's nothing wrong with that ... until, of course, workers start downloading enterprise data onto those devices, which may or may not be secure. As a result, many enterprises don’t actually know where all their data is located at a given point in time. Needless to say, security is also a major problem here.

This is not a new phenomenon. BYOD has been around for quite a while, though there is still considerable discussion around it in many organizations. The result is the development of BYOD strategies that feed into the existing IT infrastructure and the applications that are already in use on-premises.

Microsoft is offering companies that are using Office 365 a way of managing this issue.

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Microsoft’s MDM Offering

At TechEd Europe this week, Microsoft announced the release of a number of new mobile device management (MDM) features that will feed directly into Office 365.

The new capabilities will be released in the first quarter of next year and will help enable organizations to manage access to data across a diverse range of phones and tablets, including Android devices, iOS and Windows Phones. The upgrades tackle a whole range of issues around mobile devices and enable organizations to:

  1. Manage corporate resources: New abilities to apply security policies on devices that connect to Office 365 ensuring that email and documents are only synched on devices that have been cleared by organizations’ IT departments.
  2. Device settings: New capabilities to manage security polices like device level pin lock and jailbreak detection to help prevent the use of devices by unauthorized users. This also includes new security around email and data if a personal or organizational device is stolen.
  3. Office 365 data wipe: The ability to wipe corporate data from devices remotely once the employee has left the organization, leaving personal data intact.
  4. Office 365 productivity experience: Unlike third-party MDM solutions that have replaced productivity apps with restrictive all-in-one apps for corporate email, calendars and documents, MDM is built directly into the Office 365 apps.

Al these polices can be managed directly from within the Office 365 administration portal through an interface that comes with a set-up wizard to make it easy to use. It's also possible to access reports about organization devices showing which ones are compliant and which ones pose security risks.

Microsoft is also offering additional security through its Intone app management solution for phones, tablets and PCs. This provides management for devices from the cloud, application management or bulk grouping of corporate devices to set polices. It also lets enterprises deploy applications on a large scale.

These capabilities will be included with all Office 365 commercial subscriptions, including business, enterprise, education and government plans.