Before smartphones were devised, access management was fairly straightforward: businesses could simply allow access to computers connected by cable to their local networks. Outside of certain corners of the tech world, remote access wasn’t a mainstream concern.
After it became commonplace for people to carry complex touchscreen devices with them, some concessions had to be made to allow remote access — but it could be handled on an ad-hoc basis due to its rarity. In most cases, someone allowed access would be upper-management.
Now, though, the traditional workplace is breaking down. Improvements in networking were already eroding it, and then came the COVID-19 pandemic to force remote operation into the limelight. Even after it’s safe for office life to resume, things won’t fully revert to type: we’ve had absolute proof that working from home can improve work/life balance and preserve productivity.
This presents a significant challenge. A modern business must be able to handle mobile device access without causing undue delays or compromising its safety. This calls for the use of a powerful mobility management tool — and Microsoft Intune is our recommendation.
The features of Microsoft Intune
Handled via the Microsoft Endpoint Manager dashboard, Intune provides broad control over three related areas — mobile devices, the apps they use, and the data they access — and the connections between them. Let’s take a look at the key features:
- Automated deployment and updating. Intune supports the addition and configuration of all common devices types, mobile or otherwise, with every mainstream OS accounted for. It can ensure that all connected devices remain updated and set up as required, pushing out mandatory apps and settings with no need for manual intervention.
- Conditional policy management. Devices shouldn’t generally be given absolute freedom, and what a device should be allowed to access will fluctuate depending on various factors. Through Intune, such factors — including location and device state — can be used to create conditional access policies that will apply automatically. It can even use machine learning to estimate the risk of a given device and react accordingly.
- Data and compliance protection. In addition to being shielded through conditional access policies, data must be stored safely (and in a way that complies with relevant regulations). Compliance can be ensured not only for cloud storage but also for device storage (the system can even detect jailbroken iPhones or rooted Android devices).
- Global support for moderate-scale users. Microsoft provides an onboarding support service called FastTrack, and it’s provided as standard for those organisations who use at least 150 licenses from eligible plans. Any company that wants to invest heavily in mobile device management, then, will surely meet the requirement.
Why mobile access management is so important
As noted earlier, the historic office is giving way to a more flexible operational model, and this trend is only going to continue. The ideal scenario involves having options, because every worker has different preferences. A forward-thinking business can maintain office space — perhaps using a coworking building — and allow its employees to decide for themselves when, where and how they should complete their workloads.
Any company that stubbornly resists this development is going to struggle to attract top talent. Being able to get away from the grind of commuting (and the inconvenience of going to an office just to sit and use a computer) is a big selling point for jobseekers today: something that can prove more alluring than other perks such as additional money or company cars.
Those that go along with it, though, will need to account for the broader practical consequences. In-house IT departments can easily keep local devices managed, but scatter the work devices far and wide and you suddenly encounter issues. What happens if a device is compromised somehow, or stolen? Vital data can be accessed, potentially with disastrous consequences.
Devices and their access levels must be brought under control in a way that minimizes manual effort (the sheer scale of the task making manual intervention very hard to justify), and a purpose-built solution such as Microsoft Intune is the obvious solution. Factor in the native integration with Microsoft’s huge range of business software and it’s clear why a company with an existing investment in Microsoft tools would choose Intune over any alternatives.
How to effectively pitch Intune to a client
There are two likely scenarios in which Intune warrants a strong pitch: you have a client that’s struggling to handle a wide range of mobile work devices (the most obvious use case), or you have a client that has hitherto stuck to local machines but is seriously considering changing the way it operates to move with the times and attract better talent.
In the first scenario, your pitch is easy to compose: Microsoft Intune will allow them to set clear rules for device access and implement them smoothly and automatically. The time they save will more than offset the licensing expense, and take them to new levels of data security.
In the second scenario, you need to pitch Intune as one of the keys to a new way of working. Whether they’re working via laptops, tablets, or smartphones hooked up to monitors and peripherals, employees of the future will have the kind of flexibility that has long been possible but only recently become accepted — and the only way for a company to allow it without sabotaging its security and efficiency will be to use an overarching control solution.
Microsoft Intune isn’t a flashy tool, nor does it serve any creative purposes, but it’s a foundational piece without which a forward-thinking business will struggle massively to keep its scattered workforce under control. If you’re not already selling it (and pushing it as a priority), then it’s time to rectify that.