BYOD and Universities

Choosing the Right MDM for Your School Bring Your Own Desktop and Mobile Device Management are transforming IT.

BYOD initiatives have changed the landscape of IT in schools and a functional MDM is crucial. However with the ever changing interface of MDM, and because many schools already have limited resources when it comes to IT, keeping up to date with optimal management techniques can be daunting and hard to scale. According to a May 2013 Aberdeen Group survey of 320 IT organizations, 75% had a BYOD program in place, but half of those were taking an "anything goes" approach to managing the mobile ecosystem. With that in mind, choosing the right set of tools to facilitate MDM in schools while software vendors continue to add new features every few months remains one of the primary challenges facing network administrators.  Recent improvements to Systems Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) have made things even easier for Microsoft shops while Apple has improved its management software.

An article written by Computer World, confirmed that when it comes to MDM, 2014 was the battle of the big vendors. “It is the year they will make a run at enterprises that want stability and scale.” The article continues predicting that MDM will morph from peripheral issue to core IT concern as the year goes on. Now that we are into 2015, the latter is certainly true – especially for schools.


There is an entire set of policies that have been developed depending on the institution – for example businesses can configure and manage devices in the same way that COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled) phones have been containerized. For schools the process is a little bit different, but the idea is the same. Integration across tools should be a primary factor including a unified management layer. Integrating 5 or 6 products is hardly sustainable and largely a single solution is better for security purposes.


When choosing a MDM, it’s best to look for the top suite rather than the best breed. Consider the way features are delivered and be mindful that the level of integration within a suite which can vary. Vendors may have developed most capabilities natively, but many have acquired features through acquisition, or have added them through partnerships.


In an effort to make scalability more functional, Apple released improvements to their DEP (Device Enrollment Program) in February 2014. Prior to the update, administrators rolling out large iPad installs reported Windows to have better remote installation and configuration support. The release was said to address that issue, giving both enterprise and education programs would have support for MDM hands-free configuration eliminating the need to cable up every deployed device and install a profile via Apple’s Configurator utility.


Regarding schools specifically, Apple also had trouble with students deleting enrollment profiles from their devices in order to access more of the web, including unapproved apps. Along with the updates that should prevent this from happening in the future, Apple has opened up the ability for students under the age of 13 to get an Apple ID. Once a school has enrolled in the DEP, they can request IDs from Apple, who will then send a communication to the parent, who will then be guided through the registration process. The school is then notified that the student has been given consent. These types of changes have the ability to make deployments scale up to massive numbers especially within educational institutions and enterprises.


While there has been word that Apple has struggled with the functional scalability of their program, the other option is the Windows SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) plug-in. Long before Apple’s  DEP, Microsoft had developed the SCCM plug-in which allows end users to search applications via a self-service Software Center. IT administrators are also given the control to define when upgrades and installations take place in addition to installing different applications on different devices.  The services enable secure and scalable software deployment, compliance settings management, and comprehensive asset management of servers, desktops, laptops, and mobile devices spanning across Windows PCs, Macs and Unix/Linux Servers on premises along with cloud-based mobile devices running Windows, Windows Phone, Apple iOS, and Android.

BYOD has put an end to “the user” as the driver – so before deployment of an MDM, a full consideration of which suit best meets the need of your organization is necessary. MDM is finally maturing to a point where many of the kinks are being ironed out – but with the rate at which technology is moving forward, agility should continue to be a primary concern for schools and enterprises alike.