Hey SMBs: Here’s An Affordable Mobile Device Management Option

Eric Lai, Senior Writer | May 4, 2012 in Mobile Data and Messaging,Mobile Industry,Mobility | Comments (0)

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Who suffers more when an employee loses his or her unprotected iPad, the large enterprise or a small business? In absolute dollars, probably the big company. An executive or salesperson could have tens of thousands of confidential customer records worth hundreds of millions of dollars of business stored on a tablet or smartphone.

But in terms of who proportionally gets hit harder, a smaller firm could find itself crippled if a few hundred key customer details are compromised.

That’s why mobile device management (MDM) is probably even more imperative for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) than large enterprises.

And not just SMBs in heavily regulated industries like law, healthcare, or finance, but SMBs of every stripe.

Of course, buying and installing MDM software is too difficult and expensive for most smaller firms, who are usually lucky to have a single full-time IT person.

MDM software in the cloud is a good alternative. Also called managed mobility, there are a number of SAP partners offering our Afaria software as a hosted solution. In the US, that would be Verizon.

But Verizon isn’t tailored at SMBs. Enter Advanced Technology Services Inc., or ATS. The Peoria, Ill. firm, which provides outsourced services to factory and plants, is debuting a hosted MDM service based on Sybase Afaria that is aimed at companies with as few as 25 devices, according to J.T. Wood, a senior product manager at ATS.

This not only scales all the way to “hundreds of thousands of devices,” says Wood, but also can be tailored for companies of whatever flavor, not just industrial factories.

(ATS is not the only company to recently agree to use Afaria as the back-end of its managed service. In March, SAP inked a deal for Systex, a $500 million-a-year Taiwan-based tech services provider.)

A spinoff of tractor maker Caterpillar, ATS already has years of experience managing and supporting client computers, mostly fixed PCs and ruggedized mobile devices. “We do this today for companies like Sears and Coca-Cola,” said Wood.

Data gathered by Afaria from the mobile devices will feed into Remedy service management software from BMC Software used by ATS. That data then feeds in SAP BusinessObjects where it will be analyzed and tracked by ATS managers on behalf of customers.

Wood, obviously, is bullish about the market. Factories, plants and other industrial companies all need help, as they are quickly moving away from ruggedized devices to iPads and Android-based devices, he said.

Sure, the breakage rates are slightly higher: a 500 worker deployment might require the company to buy 6-700 devices total over a 2-3 year lifecycle. But such “ruggedizing by ‘sparing’,” as Wood calls it, is still far cheaper than going with ruggedized devices, most of which cost between $1,000 to 4,000 dollars.

(Though many companies are sticking with tried-and-true rugged devices, like Australian electricity distributor Powercor, which is using Afaria to help keep the lights on.)

Beyond ATS’s legacy market, though, demand is being driven by Bring Your Own Device as well as enterprise app stores.

“I’m talking to one company that has about 150 devices, all BYOD, at least 3 different kinds of devices, and 2-3 versions of iOS,” Wood said. “These guys just cannot handle it on their own.”

Wood and ATS will be at the SAPPHIRE NOW conference in Orlando in mid-May. Find them at the Mobile Managed Solutions table on the Mobility Campus at SAPPHIRE NOW, or contact Wood at jawood@advancedtech.com to set up a meeting.

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Last year, it was actor Gabriel Byrne who lent his celebrity gravitas to SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando, and Sting who rocked the stadium. This year, it will be athlete Lance Armstrong gracing us at the SAPPHIRE NOW keynote starting Monday May 14 at 8:30 am ET (sign up to watch it online here) and the original lineup of Van Halen rocking out. I can’t wait til I hear them play this:

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