Mobility is moving faster than almost any other technology sector. The iPhone and Android have completely taken the market by storm in a few short years, and enterprises are increasingly rolling out smartphone deployments. Many executives and account managers are dependent on their phones, and the sudden emergence of the iPad (and the upcoming Android tablets) has kindled a new interest in tablet devices. All of these trends present potential difficulties for organizations that have to manage and monitor these devices.
BoxTone, a company that traditionally offered a proactive BlackBerry management and monitoring solution, has announced Mobile Service Management (MSM), a fundamental shift in the way the company approaches mobility management. Essentially, BoxTone is moving from providing a number of disparate monitoring and management applications to providing an all-inclusive product suite to meet all of a client's mobile needs. According to the vendor, the company is the first and only provider to attempt this type of solution, and they're not the least bit shy about it.
"BoxTone is announcing the industry's first proactive mobile service management solution. We are effectively taking the best of IT service management proven strategies and techniques, and bringing together modern technology and expertise in automation to enable organizations to have a more comprehensive, service-based approach to mobility—not a fire fighting, hook 'em up and run out the door practice," said Brian Reed, chief marketing officer for BoxTone.
BoxTone has a few fundamental premises behind why it's implementing this solution now, and why it's so critical for enterprises:
- Enterprises can no longer afford to impose a single platform–based mobile infrastructure. Users demand to be able to use whatever devices they want.
- Mobile devices play too significant of a role in enterprises for companies to be able to afford less than 99 percent (or higher) reliability.
- The use of mobile devices in enterprises is not only going to grow, but going to grow dramatically in the next year, with many organizations doubling their smartphone deployments.
What BoxTone Offers
BoxTone now offers a management platform that can track any device that connects to the enterprise, whether through ActiveSync, Good Technology, Lotus Notes Traveler, Sybase Afaria, or a VPN. In other words, virtually any smartphone (Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, Palm), tablet (iPad, Android tablets), or similar mobile device is manageable through BoxTone. The entire interface is designed to track all of the devices together, reporting on outages and issues through the same dashboard, providing a centralized view of your organization's entire mobile device network.
BoxTone offers the following solutions for these devices, each within an individual module (you can pick and choose whichever ones you'd like):
- Asset Management: Tracks cost and ROI.
- Incident Management: Warns of server, network, and other connectivity outages and issues.
- Problem Management: Identifies issues across all platform communication links.
- User Self-Service: Provides a solution for users to solve their own problems.
- Service Desk Management: Solves user problems when self service fails.
"The challenge for our customers and prospects is that mobility is only getting more complex, not less. I think mobility, for a lot of organizations, used to be single platform, single-app based. Whether they were using Windows Mobile devices or a BlackBerry connected to Domino or Exchange, it was a one-size-fits-all for most organizations. Pandora's box is open as we all know, and the reality now is that all these different vectors are overrunning IT, mostly through the consumerization wave," said Reed.
On the next page, see why BoxTone sees itself as the Microsoft of mobility, and examine the factors behind whether a comprehensive mobility solution really makes sense for your organization.
Finally, BoxTone sees itself as an umbrella company in the mobility space, with the resources and reach to subcontract any of the smaller mobility vendors to serve highly specialized needs that an organization might have, not unlike industry behemoths such as IBM and Microsoft have done in the past with other computing solutions.
"The interesting thing is that Microsoft, CA, HP, and all those guys who are the traditional systems management vendors of choice for the large enterprise are asleep at the wheel. They're doing nothing for mobility, so this creates a tremendous opportunity for a company like BoxTone and the others who are plowing into this category to really establish a leadership base," said Reed.
Defining Your Organization's Needs
Obviously, BoxTone would like nothing more than for every medium-sized business and enterprise to run out and embrace a comprehensive solution. In theory, it makes sense to build the same level of systems management into mobility that IT has implemented across organizational servers and computers for years, but is there really that urgent of a need? Below are some counterpoints to consider before implementing this type of solution:
- Cost. I don't doubt that BoxTone's solutions will save money for some enterprises that have inefficiencies in the mobile structure, but for most companies it will mean a significant investment. The BoxTone modules (five in all) cost about $15-20 per user per device each (plus $35 for the base suite). (Editor's Note: I initially had this cost factored as a monthly fee, not as a one-time fee. I apologize for the error.)
- Saturation. What percentage of employees in your company have a company-owned smartphone? Is it 5, 10, or 20 percent? If your organization still has a relatively low adoption of devices, it doesn't make much sense to implement a comprehensive solution.
- Usage level. How frequently do your employees that do have company-owned smartphones use them? Are they constantly on the road and completely dependent on the devices, or are they more of a 'nice-to-have' that's really only essential once or twice a year when they're off at a big tradeshow or on vacation? The more indispensible smartphones are to your employees, the more important it is that you implement a large-scale solution.
I have no trouble agreeing that BoxTone's MSM is perfect for aggressive, type-A organizations where rock star executives and account managers demand always-on connectivity and support for their smartphones, but what about for the more typical enterprise? Has mobility reached such a fever pitch that it's just as important as your computer network? Only you can decide.