Most IT administrators feel that they spend their time herding cats no matter what they’re working on, but mobile and endpoint management seems to make the herding even harder and the cats even more elusive.

For one thing, not all cats are the same. You’ve got domestic cats like tabbies, calicos, Persians, Siamese and angoras. But then there are bobcats, ocelots and lynxes. Then prairie cats like wildcats, jaguarundi and pumas. And the ones you don’t want to mess with, like tigers, lions, leopards and cheetahs.

And if you thought you were herding cats before BYOD became around, well, you were only just getting started. The ability to secure, manage, monitor and support mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and portable computers is key. Here we'll take a look at some of the key things to know about BYOD security - and how unified endpoint management can help.

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All Technology Use Policies Are Not Created Equal

If a company hasn’t given the official thumbs up for employees to make use of their own devices to manage work-related activities, it’s likely that employees are doing so anyway. That can be a big problem.

In most cases, an organization already has certain policies in place that may relate to or address some BYOD concerns, but companies considering BYOD need to review these policies to see if they impact their BYOD strategy and policy development.

The crucial concern is consistency between existing policies and BYOD policies. In other words, the policies already in place about the acceptable use of social media, mobile security policies, encryption, passwords, wireless access policies, incident response policies, and human resource policies and handbooks may or may not cover what's going on with employees' personal devices.

Although policy-based controls are effective insofar as employees choose to comply, technological controls such as enterprise mobility management and, more recently, unified endpoint management can make the work of monitoring and managing the details of those policies much easier.

Companies Need Mobile Security

Doing a quick search on mobile device management reveals plenty of options, but the options have expanded beyond simple mobile device management to enterprise mobility management and, most recently, unified endpoint management.

The ability to secure, manage, monitor and support mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops is key. And a good strategy here will include ensuring that all these devices are password protected, that applications can be distributed wirelessly and that the devices can be wiped if they are lost or stolen.

More Endpoints, More Problems

IT administrators digging into their expanding endpoint environment are up against what essentially amounts to herding cats: identifying all the different types of network-attached devices, locating them on the network and figuring out how to manage and secure them.

You want to be able to manage, to some extent, every user device that touches your network.

Managing every user device that touched the network used to mean desktop computers and laptops, which you could sometimes manage with ad hoc solutions. But then “user devices” came to include Chromebooks, tablets and smartphones, not to mention printers, servers and other network-attached devices. So that meant administrators had to start bouncing among disparate tools to manage all of the devices, platforms and operating systems on the network.

This is one of the key challenges of maintaining network security and keeping noncompliant devices from wreaking havoc. Fortunately, the security solutions for dealing with the issue are evolving as well.

The Difference Between MDM, EMM and UNM

Many people don't fully appreciate the differences between the security options available for securing BYOD networks. What's the difference between mobile device management, enterprise mobility management and unified endpoint management? Here's a quick rundown.

Mobile data management manages devices in a way that allows their users to perform certain work tasks on their mobile devices. It's a practical security solution, but a limited one, and one that doesn't fully the use of native applications.

Enterprise mobility management, on the other hand, allows users to take their own devices and enroll them in the company's IT resources. EMM uses containerization to segregate company and personal data. IT administrators can also create distinct encrypted containers that allow employees to use certain apps and email.

Unified endpoint management (UEM) adds yet another layer by managing all that EMM does, but adding the ability to manage all different endpoints - along with compliance, app customization, data and document security - under a single solution. Therefore, UEM moves beyond devices themselves and provides a management solution for all devices under a business.

Mobile Devices Are Just Another Endpoint

It makes sense for IT administrators to think of mobile devices as simply another category of endpoints. Just like the traditional endpoints of PCs, printers and network devices, mobile devices carry data, they are vulnerable, and employees depend on them to accomplish their tasks. Yet while most organizations have well-developed strategies for endpoint management, many have not yet taken the logical step of moving mobile devices into that fold.

This is key for administrators looking to gain control of and effectively build a secure BYOD program.