What is Endpoint Management?

Endpoint management is the process of centralizing the discovery, deployment, and maintenance of endpoint software and devices within an organization. 

Endpoint management tools provide a management interface to simplify or automate deployment, patching, and configuration management of managed devices – which reduces the burden on IT Operations. 

Endpoint management tools traditionally reside within corporate IT organizations, with Security Operations teams reliant on endpoint protection platforms to manage cyberthreats or breaches to an organization's infrastructure. Endpoint management tools vary based on the type of endpoints being managed across the organization. 

Comparing Endpoint Management Tools: MDM, EMM, and UEM

Endpoint management has more M’s than a bag of the aptly named M&Ms candy! 

MDM is short for Mobile Device Management, which controls device functionality and maintenance from a single management console. MDM is about remotely managing mobile devices such as phones or tablets., allowing users to manage device enrollment, remote control, device lockdown, and location tracking. MDM tools have the ability to enforce security policies, track device and application inventory, and monitor devices in real-time. These controls allow IT teams to have granular visibility and control over devices allowing organizations to closely monitor and control their risk and exposure due to mobile devices. For security purposes, MDM was a reasonable solution to manage corporate-owned mobile devices. However, many employees continued to use their own devices when possible or carried multiple devices for business and personal use. This obviously necessitated a solution that worked to include BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, considerations into the organization’s mobile device approach.

Compare endpoint management tools

Enter EMM, or Enterprise Mobility Management, is the next iteration of MDM. EMM includes all of the functionality of MDM and extends the processes to wireless networks and mobile computing services, including tablets and smartphone devices. EMM solutions commonly use a secure container on the mobile device that keeps business data secure, even on a non-corporate owned device. EMM solutions are a complete package of services that offer data security on BYOD devices as well as corporate-provided devices. 

Finally, UEM, or Unified Endpoint Management, is the complete portfolio of MDM, EMM, and endpoint device management including all desktops, laptops, printers, IoT devices, and any other computing platforms or devices within the organization. UEM is able to quickly and easily apply holistic security and configuration policies across the entire organization regardless of the type of endpoint. UEM is also able to quickly assess and report on all devices and applications used. The primary use case for UEM remains focused on tablets and smartphones, however with the shift towards a highly remote workforce organizations will be looking to  unified endpoint management tools to ease the burden on IT when dealing with remote workforces.

Endpoint Management & the Remote Workforce

Endpoint device management tools are a core part of protecting an increasingly remote workforce. IT admins require reliable remote access to endpoints and devices in order to maintain and patch while minimizing user disruption. IT and security teams are the most common users of UEM software. UEM tools offer a comprehensive view of all devices used for business purposes and allow businesses to ensure licenses, applications, software, and data are all properly secured. UEM software also provides usage data that can be extremely valuable in understanding how often employees use their devices or applications. 

Endpoint management tools can greatly improve end-user experiences. It can streamline device enrollment, for example. UEM tools enable zero-touch enrollment, where organizations can deploy thousands of devices without having to manually set up each individual device. By automating this process, employees are able to receive their devices with all management, applications, and configurations already set. 

Endpoint management can also support BYOD devices. Endpoint management tools are able to push applications or even virtualized environments to a variety of devices ensuring a consistent experience across all devices, regardless of where the device comes from. User-level management allows a single sign-in to an application from device to device to give the same up-to-date experience. Users are able to confidently rely on having the tools they need to do their jobs, regardless of the hardware used.

What is Endpoint Management?

What’s Driving Change in Endpoint Management?

Organizations are shifting to a less centralized, and more device-diverse environments. Initiatives like BYOD, work from home, or even specific OS or application needs for individual employees is a major driver for this shift. Organizations’ IT and security operations are required to evolve the way they approach endpoint management for those devices. Additionally, changes in manageability from many of the major operating systems allow for more streamlined tools for endpoint management across the organization. 

For example, Windows 10 is introducing new tools for development and a set of APIs for devices. IT admins can push all applications from a corporate-approved app store. IT can manage applications and information on devices as well as the corporate network in a more streamlined process. Windows 10 also delivers several other management features that are required by IT admins across devices. Basically, Windows 10 is a huge driver for the adoption of EMM and UEM across several verticals.

Windows 10, ChromeOS, and macOS have helped EMM solutions to evolve and deliver a unified management capability for all devices and applications within an organization. Further convergence of technology will continue to improve and enable support for common platforms like iOS and Android for mobile devices. Enterprises are expanding their IT capabilities to adopt a Unified Endpoint Management platform that not only simplifies managing and securing of devices but also helps to cut the cost of supporting a remote workforce, pushing distributed enterprises into the age of IoT.

The shift towards broader endpoint management tools are driven heavily by the digital and cloud transformation at organizations worldwide. With the large scale move to predominantly remote work in 2020, organizations are hyper focused on finding better solutions for managing, patching, and securing their distributed and highly heterogeneous devices. 

What to Consider in an Endpoint Management Solution

As your organization weighs how and when to adopt an endpoint management solution, here are the key considerations you should keep in mind while evaluating your options:

  • Automation: Is the solution able to automate and reduce the burden on IT and security operations? Is automation a core focus of the solution?
  • Reliable Patch Management: Can the solution reliably patch systems regardless of location with no impact from typical IT inhibitors like VPNs?
  • Unified Workflows: Does your endpoint management solution support workflows for both IT and security operations in a way that reduces the complexity of security incidents?
  • Cross-Platform Support: Is the solution able to support more than just Windows or macOS?
  • Ease of Use: Is the solution easy to use or does your team ultimately lose more time learning the solution than the efficiencies gained?
  • Ease of Deployment: Does the solution rely on multiple agents or antiquated credential-based access to deploy and maintain? 
  • Software Deployment: Is the solution able to quickly and easily deploy or enforce software on the endpoint using an automated solution?
  • Application & Device Inventory: Does the solution provide full hardware and software visibility of the endpoints to quickly identify misconfigurations, missing patches, or compliance issues with no burdensome scans?
  • Extensibility of the Platform: Does the solution allow IT or security operations to create custom tasks using scripting that can be pushed to any endpoint to handle highly specialized tasks?

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