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SimpleMDM for Apple devices is both simple and powerful

Many mobile device management suites are so large and complex, or so heavy-handed, that administrators become frustrated and users become disgruntled. Enter, SimpleMDM.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

When BYOD became a thing a few years ago, we in the IT business knew it was going to be a pain because of the sheer numbers and the diversity of devices and operating systems available to users. Fortunately, many companies came to the rescue with mobile device management (MDM) software to help us make sense of it all.

The problem with MDM suites is that many are so large and complex, or so heavy-handed, that administrators become frustrated and users become disgruntled. SimpleMDM is one of those management suites that's easy to use, but powerful enough to put your mind at ease for your BYOD program.

How simple is SimpleMDM?

After you sign up for the five free device account (no credit card required), it only takes two or three minutes to familiarize yourself with the web-based interface and begin enrolling devices into the MDM. I used the free service for my testing.

The first thing you do is to create a group, unless you're OK with Default. Create a group and then create an enrollment. Creating an enrollment consists of selecting your group, naming the device that you want to enroll. The name is just an identification for the device. If you're enrolling a lot of them, I'd use an employee number, employee name, or employee email address to identify which device you're actually looking at when you look at a device's details.

Creating the enrollment means that you've produced a QR code that the user can scan, a URL that the user can click, or you can send the enrollment link to the user via email, which he or she has to open with Safari. You can also text the link to the user. Once the user begins the enrollment process, the device's Settings app opens to General->Profiles or to General->Device Management, with a prompt to install the SimpleMDM management certificate. After installation, the device checks in with the MDM and you can see the device listed in the web interface under Devices.

This process will also begin to install any apps that you've selected for the group you created.

Since this MDM is used primarily for BYOD programs, user acceptance is key to the process. In fact, if you don't protect the certificate with a passcode, the user can disenroll at any time and delete any associated apps that installed during the enrollment process.

As an administrator, you can see all the device's details, such as IMEI code, battery charge percent, every installed app, and you can push assigned apps at will to the device, but the user has to willingly accept installation. By seeing the user's apps, you know if the user has uninstalled the SimpleMDM app, any pushed apps, or if he or she has not installed the pushed apps.

The free account allows you to use all the advanced features and you can purchase service for devices beyond the free five for $2.00 per device per month. SimpleMDM's free account will introduce you to web-based MDM software and management. The advanced features are located under the Devices list where you click the Edit link for your groups.

There is one significant missing feature from SimpleMDM: There's no detection or restriction for jailbroken devices. I don't think this missing feature is necessarily a complete fail, but if you don't want jailbroken devices on your network, you'd better have some method of detecting and restricting them.

As with any MDM, there is the possibility of a heavy-handed approach to BYOD management. SimpleMDM is no exception. If your company takes a heavy-handed approach, it will only take one device wipe or lockout to end your BYOD program forever. As an end user, I'd accept MDM management on a trial basis, but as an administrator, I'd require full acceptance. For these reasons, your company must have a well-written BYOD program document or plan in place that users literally accept and sign.

While this is not a formal review of SimpleMDM, it is an easy to use, quick to deploy MDM system that has a very short learning curve. The skill level required to use and manage it, in my opinion, is medium. I think that an administrator needs to know how to handle movile devices, mobile device security, and the people who use them so that the BYOD program can be successful. And this is true for any MDM software suite. You have to have an administrator that is skilled enough to prevent accidental device wiping, to prevent user alienation, and to ensure acceptance. A very tall order regardless of how simple the software is.

Take SimpleMDM for a spin and let me know how you fare with it. I found it to be simple as advertised.

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