BoxTone blends mobile device control with enterprise directories, policies

BoxTone has released a new version of its mobile device management software, which now works with existing enterprise policy-setting and security tools. This integration lets enterprise IT staff apply those tools to mobile users.

Network World Clear Choice Test: How to protect smartphones and tablets (May 2011)

Management and security policies set through Microsoft Active Directory now can be applied automatically to provision and update mobile users, and monitor their policy compliance, as well as report and correct violations or problems, according to the vendor.

The drive for the revamped MDM software came from customers and prospects, says Brian Reed, vice president of products for BoxTone. These companies already had in place IT, HR and other policies, procedures and systems for adding new hires, moving or promoting people, authenticating employees and so on. What they wanted was to leverage these existing resources for users with mobile devices, instead of managing them as a separate group, according to Reed.

BoxTone has offered a suite of server programs, with some integration with Microsoft Active Directory to manage and secure mobile users and their devices. But the new release of the suite is intended to rescue mobile management from being a separate application, largely independent of existing IT systems. It includes four key new elements:

- Modifications to the core BoxTone code to apply policy changes created via Active Directory or other tools automatically to mobile devices and users.

- A security "dashboard" for administrators, giving them a high-level summary of mobile users and devices and their real-time security and compliance status.

- "Governance, risk management, and compliance" (GRC) reports, to meet security audit mandates.

- And, compliance management engine, an application that monitors the security status of mobile users, devices, applications and services, to detect and correct violations or anomalies.

BoxTone isn't the only MDM vendor addressing this space. Most of them have been working to encompass ever more of the elements, features and products that bear on mobility for enterprise employees. BoxTone claims it's the first to achieve this depth of integration with policy tools such as Active Directory and Windows Authentication. An employee can be identified as a sales rep with the company's New York office and assigned a given set of mobile access and use rights based on that role and location, for example.

"We go beyond the simple userID/password combination," Reed says. "We can use an Active Directory ID for rights management, for example. We haven't seen anyone else do this."

Interface code links the BoxTone servers and databases with Active Directory-based IT policies, certificate authorities, VPN infrastructure, and systems management applications. Administrators can use their existing policy tools as they have in the past, and the interfaces hand off these policies requirements to BoxTone for implementation and monitoring. The BoxTone management application can be used to fine-tune mobile-specific policies. For example, a general policy of requiring mobile device passwords is applied via BoxTone so these passwords have a specified length with a mix of letters and numbers.

Currently BoxTone targets iOS, Android, and BlackBerry mobile devices, as well as older Windows Mobile products.

The new version of the BoxTone software is available now, and the price has increased to $49 per device, compared to $39 previously.

In April, Verizon began offering mobile device management services, based on the existing BoxTone software, to its business custoemrs.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.


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