What is Device Management?

Unraveling the Essentials: A Comprehensive Guide to Device Management

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Device management basics

Device management automates everyday activities like procuring, tracking, and maintaining end-user devices, including workstations and mobile devices. This ensures that the entire computing environment, including both infrastructure and devices, is completely managed, including:

  • Device inventory and authorization

  • Device configuration standards

  • Patch management and compliance

  • Device security

  • Authorization to connect to a network and use computing resources

  • Proactive management of device errors

Device management includes managing drivers, patches, and software versions on all devices, including workstations and mobile and IoT devices, and monitoring them for errors and network intrusions to make sure they are not putting enterprise resources at risk.

Mobile device management (MDM) focuses on mobile device operating systems. It can be part of a broader device management program that includes patching security vulnerabilities, maintaining operating systems at the current level, and distributing new versions of software to all mobile devices. The key to effective mobile device management is administering and controlling software and administration for tablets and smartphones. This is challenging as many of these devices may be owned by the user, requiring solutions that enable users to retain a level of control over the machine while still allowing support providers to update and manage the security and software levels on the device.

How device management helps secure the enterprise

While organizations have been managing security vulnerabilities that could lead to cyberattacks on networks and servers for years, many have been hesitant to expand security to the device management level. This is primarily due to the workload device management is perceived to require, and it certainly is a daunting prospect without automation. The result is that end-user devices become subjected to malicious attacks via email and other sources. 

Device management applications enable organizations to address security vulnerabilities across various devices and operating systems. They provide the ability to identify missing patches, scan the enterprise for these identified vulnerabilities using device policies, and manage them from testing to approval through deployment. This way, device management software shortens the time to deploy patches to all devices, regardless of the operating system. Device management software products can manage security vulnerabilities across Windows, macOS, Linus, Chromebook, IOS, and Android devices with automation, workflows, and reporting so organizations and MSPs can secure the entire computing environment, leaving no gaps.

Another way device management applications can secure the enterprise is through their software distribution features, ensuring all devices are operating with the latest anti-virus and malware software, even when end-users neglect to update their devices.

Device monitoring is yet another way device management platforms help secure the enterprise. Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, device management software can detect a potential malicious attack, automatically disable the device’s network connection, and alert the right technicians. They can investigate and clear the alerts or take further action to protect the computing environment if an attack is confirmed. This is particularly effective for intrusion detection and denial of service attacks.

The robust approach of device management applications that includes patch management and device monitoring is critical to a holistic security approach. Combined with multi-factor authentication at the device and application levels, these systems help extend an effective security operations practice to every instrument used in the enterprise.

Device management best practices

Device management best practice begins with maintaining all devices on the most current operating system, ensuring all critical patches have been updated, and maintaining the latest software versions for the applications used on the device. This, in turn, requires knowing the types of devices used in the enterprise and having a complete inventory of them. It starts with implementing software that allows the discovery and maintenance of an asset inventory. It also enables manual entry of mobile devices as they are assigned or registered with the organization.

Asset inventory is the start, but device configuration and management policies are also needed for each asset type. The device management policy governs the drivers, patches, and software levels required to conform with corporate standards or those needed to protect the enterprise from security vulnerabilities. The device management policy drives the automation needed to deliver appropriate patches and software to each device, regardless of if the device is a workstation, network appliance, or mobile device. 

In addition to the policy that drives the device configuration, policies are also needed to govern how patches and software versions are deployed, including the testing and approval processes required. Automated workflows in device management tools can leverage device policies and ensure that each driver, patch, or software release is prioritized, tested, and approved when necessary before being deployed. The ability to open a work order for each device and then follow that device through the process to completion is a critical feature of device management applications. It also makes it possible to manage deployment failures, ensuring all devices are successfully updated.

Summarizing this from a device patch management standpoint, critical best practices include:

  • Implementing an automated solution for patch management

  • Developing a complete inventory of all device assets

  • Documenting and implementing configuration policies 

  • Scanning all devices for compliance and opening work orders to update devices using a workflow that governs testing and approvals

  • Reporting on and managing exceptions in the deployment process

Device management best practice also includes monitoring all devices to detect suspicious activity or errors that might indicate a hardware or software failure. Securing devices includes understanding the applications running on the device and detecting and blocking if any of them send sensitive  information outside the enterprise. Monitoring network traffic patterns as part of a device management program can help identify suspicious data transfers, enabling the organization to address them.

When looking at tools to support device management, there are a few best practices to keep in mind as well:

1) Determine your device management needs
  • Do you need to control usage and access to corporate resources from the device management platform or protect the device from vulnerabilities and ensure it’s operating on the most current operating system and software? The answer to this might depend on how people in the organization will use devices. If email access is the primary usage, for example, it may be sufficient to lock their email account if they leave the organization. In this case patch management may be sufficient. 

  • What operating systems do you need to support? Most commonly, Android and IOS platform support is required but consider Chromebook usage as well.

2) Consider end-user support needs:
  • MDM products may manage devices but offer little in terms of end-user support capabilities, whereas RMM (Remote Management and Monitoring) platforms that include PSA (Professional Services Automation) features provide the ability to log work orders against an asset, understand asset configurations and enable remote updates that allow technicians to fix problems.

3) Automate for efficient operations:
  • Automating the update process and managing exception reports helps save technician time, enabling them to focus on more critical tasks.

  • Update device operating systems promptly using the patch management features that support the device’s OS.

    The final device management best practices to consider are related to corporate governance:

  • Consider limiting devices allowed to access network resources to those whose operating systems can be managed. For example, if patch management applications in the organization support iOS and Android, only those devices should be allowed to access these resources.

  •  Make sure that applications with sensitive data have several layers of security, including multi-factor authentication to validate the user’s access.

  • Have strong exit management practices to ensure data doesn’t leave with a device when an employee leaves the organization and that access is terminated promptly. 

    Remember, device management best practice mainly concerns itself with four high-level objectives:

  • Build and maintain an inventory of devices and their OS (know what you manage)

  • Ensure all devices have updated OS versions and all required vulnerability patches installed

  • Use multi-factor authentication at the application level to ensure only authorized personnel gain access to them

  • Ensure solid exit management to limit access to data and applications when an employee leaves

Device Management Best Practices

  • Build and Maintain inventory of all Devices 

  • Ensuring all the devices has Updated OS Version

  •  Use Multi Factor Authentication 

  • Ensure Solid Exit Management when an Employee Leaves

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Device management software features

Remote monitoring and management (RMM) platforms help device management by supporting their operating systems as part of a more comprehensive patch management program. A minimal-impact approach to complete device management allows organizations to assess the potential impact of security vulnerabilities designed to leverage mobile devices, compare them against devices in use at the organization, and deploy patches where appropriate. The benefit of this approach is that it enables organizations to protect themselves from cyber-attacks without requiring full ownership and control of the mobile device. These device management tools enable large enterprises and MSPs to maintain software levels on these devices by allowing software deployment.

  • Devices have current drivers installed
  • Any patches for known OS vulnerabilities have been installed
  • Correct software versions are in use, ensuring a current feature/functionality set
  • Special device configurations needed to operate corporate software are present

Device management also includes monitoring devices for errors or monitoring if a denial-of-service attempt is in progress. Mobile device management adds the ability to lock out devices or erase their data.

Using robust RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) platforms can help provide most device management capabilities needed by large enterprises and MSPs, including:

  • Hardware and software asset inventories
  • Patch management capabilities and workflows, including script libraries to assist with policy-based patch management automation
  • Device monitoring for security anomalies and errors

Adding PSA (Professional Services Automation) software or selecting a platform that provides both sets of features adds full-service ticketing, self-service, and artificial intelligence capabilities that enable tickets to be opened when monitoring capabilities detect errors or other conditions that require attention. With these additional features, providers can be fully proactive in device management activities, managing both the protection of devices and the enterprise from cyber-attack while offering features that enable technicians to support customer needs.

The key is to find a complete set of features that enable device management throughout the enterprise. The combined RMM and PSA features available in device management platforms are geared toward large enterprises and MSPs. These will perform device management across various operating systems: Windows, macOS, Linux, Chromebook, and mobile device platforms like iOS and Android. The ability to manage all devices from a single platform, combined with end-user service desk tools, enables highly efficient and effective operations for MSPs and other organizations that need to manage devices across multiple locations.

These device management toolsets also provide a single console that technicians can use to manage missed patches, user-reported work orders and requests, and maintenance tasks they need to perform. The single, consolidated view, combined with the automation of many repetitive tasks based on policies and automation scripts, allow technicians to support far more devices than they could manually. 

Benefits of effective device management platforms include:

  • The ability to add devices of any type to the network more quickly, increasing the ability to authenticate devices connecting from anywhere, securing the network

  • Automated patch and software deployment from a single console, using policies and scripts to guide the deployments

  • The ability to configure devices and install software remotely, making it easier to get new users and new equipment up and running more quickly

  • Improved device performance due to monitoring and the use of machine learning to repair or call attention to issues

Excellent support experiences as technicians have all the information they require about a device at their fingertips to quickly identify and repair issues related to software, firmware, or the operating system, as well as remotely manage the device to fix them

Benefits of Effective Device management Platforms

  • Ability to add Devices of any Type
  • Automated patch and software deployment 
  •  Improved device performance 
  • Excellent support experiences

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The best device management platforms will save time, improve employee and technician efficiency, increase production and be easy to use, enabling employees to spend more time on on value-added work rather than on repetitive tasks.

These benefits are most easily achieved with a single, unified device management platform that enables the entire device management from a single console. Distributing device management across platforms and organizational silos can result in missed updates and inconsistent control of devices. With a single device management console and reporting platform, management can view deployment issues and compliance reports run against device policies to ensure they effectively manage all devices within the enterprise.

The availability of a single device management console means technicians can also respond at any time, from anywhere, from any device, further increasing their effectiveness, especially when they can do so across all operating systems. The ability to view test results and approve deployments is another way unified device management platforms decrease lead times for patching security vulnerabilities and protecting the environment.

End-user devices have become far more critical in the computing environment as their use has grown and the enterprise has become more distributed. Several factors affect this:

  • The number of end-user devices is triple what it used to be, considering many users will employ a desktop or laptop, tablet, and mobile phone. This means the IT organization or MSP supporting it needs to reach a far higher number of devices than ever before, and this number continues to grow.

  • End-user devices are more susceptible to cyber-attack if they are not compliant with the most current operating system, patches, and software.

Effective device management platforms will help organizations ensure that all devices are properly maintained and secure, with minimal IT intervention needed on the device itself. Device management platforms that enable technicians to manage all devices from a single console ensure:

  • All devices remain compliant with the latest security patches
  • All devices can run the required corporate applications, and these applications can be deployed and maintained across all devices
  • Employees can have the same user experience across all devices in the office or remotely while still maintaining a secure computing environment

Combining user security and access to the most current software and features with ease of operation from the providers’ point of view creates a successful foundation from which the business can thrive in an increasingly digital world. Adding the ability to manage the health of devices using automation and address issues before they lead to downtime keeps both technicians and employees more productive, increasing the organization’s competitiveness in an increasingly demanding business climate. Which is why device management is a critical advantage in every organization.


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