The complete guide to unified endpoint management (UEM)

Managing remote devices has always been complex. Imagine you need to check if the antivirus on your client systems is up-to-date. You have to comb through a fleet of scattered end devices including mobile, desktop, and others to find out. This wasn’t a problem when you started out with a single service with a few endpoints, right? But, you grew and added more devices, more servers, more tools, and, most importantly, more data... Managing the applications and the data on them, both individual and cross-functional, has become near-impossible at this stage. This is a good problem to have, considering it is growth-led, but it is a problem, nevertheless.

Initially, Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) came to the rescue, with the promise of securing corporate data on enterprise-owned and personal mobile devices. But the needs of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) outgrew these approaches rather quickly, as both EMM and MDM were still limited to individual devices. When devices won’t communicate with each other, it falls on the MSPs to put the scattered puzzle pieces together and form a complete picture that makes sense.

MSPs needed a solution that is more extensive than mobile device management and more evolved than enterprise mobility management. 

Enter Unified Endpoint Management (UEM). 

Before we get to what exactly UEM is, we'll tell you what got us here writing about this. We go through a lot of resources, forums, and communities constantly to understand how MSPs operate in the wild. One of the challenges is navigating the issue of having to handle multiple endpoints that are isolated from each other. The finding that most surprised us? Many MSPs continue to use piecemeal mobility solutions despite the security and productivity inefficiencies they have because they don’t know that a better solution exists, or can’t make up their mind about it. There is a gap in the knowledge of what UEM can do, and despite its newfound popularity, people still use the term interchangeably with mobile management.

While there are resources aplenty on UEM, they rarely touch on the details of what UEM can really do for your MSP business. So we rose to the occasion and decided to put together a complete go-to UEM guide for you. 

Find the role of UEM in your MSP business and the best practices for implementing a UEM strategy that supports your remote-first endpoint management journey.

What is Unified Endpoint Management (UEM)

Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) is an umbrella term for platforms that provide a single interface to manage multiple laptops, mobile devices, applications, and tablets, with security policies enforced across the entire stack. With a multi-device architecture, this platform enables a centralized view of every device you use, eliminating the hassle of context gaps among different tools on different platforms. 

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Difference between MDM, EMM, and UEM

Thanks to the abundance of device management solutions out there, it is easy to get confused. UEM, MDM, and EMM are particularly misunderstood and used interchangeably with each other. Although some features overlap and each is an extension of the other, all these solutions widely differ in terms of functionality and offerings.

MDM

EMM

UEM

Definition

MDM tools manage mobile phones, tablets, and the corresponding data.

EMM tools manage all the devices that MDM does along with granular level features covering mobile apps.

UEM tools manage all the devices that EMM does with a single management console covering servers, operating systems, gadgets, and IoT devices.

Core features

Device monitoring

Basic security like device wipe and lock

Setup security policies for BYOD and COPE

  • Mobile application management
  • Mobile content management
  • Identity access management
  • Containerization
  • Enable condition-based security policies
  • Unified management
  • Single console
  • IoT management

Objective

Connectivity

Connectivity + granular level management

Connectivity + granular level management + efficiency

The evolution of Unified Endpoint Management

UEM has been around for many years, so why talk about it now?

Many businesses were comfortable with their traditional device management tools as the focus was mainly on managing remote devices. They could handle activities ranging from device provisioning to location tracking on a basic level. Efficiency wasn’t as much of a buzzword as it is today and so was security. MDM could get away with offering basic security features like remote wipe and data encryption.

The first pivot came with the surge in mobile phone usage.

The need for an improved device management solution became pronounced when the initial wave of mobile phones and mobile apps hit the market. As employees started accessing corporate data from their personal mobiles, businesses scrambled to make BYOD (bring your own device) security a priority, in order to prevent unprotected external devices from becoming a breeding ground for cyberattacks. This marks the beginning of Mobile Application Management (MAM) and Mobile Content Management (MCM), which expanded the capabilities of mobile device management to focus on managing and protecting apps and app data. More features were introduced at the granular level, like crash log reporting, app updating, and app wrapping.

This is when Apple and Microsoft started building mobile devices management features into their PC operating systems. MDM and EMM vendors had to start supporting desktop devices rather than just mobile devices. When the focus shifted from device to software, the idea of unified endpoint management fully materialized, enabling businesses to manage any endpoint. It didn’t matter anymore whether the device had a sim card or an operating system.

The next and the final pivot came in the form of remote work.

Although many companies were already shifting to UEM platforms acknowledging the need for a unified platform to manage endpoints, the pandemic proved to be the ultimate reality check for those that weren’t. Hundreds of client organizations went remote overnight, decentralizing the infrastructure outside office perimeters. The shift necessitated a solution that provides a single pane of glass to monitor every conceivable element of the IT environment with much ease.

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Why Unified Endpoint Management is important

As an MSP in today’s world, you are navigating a high-threat landscape, employees who lack awareness of potential threats, and a scarcity of robust platforms that give visibility into what’s happening so you’re able to respond to issues quickly. Employees actively access confidential company data with their mobile phones now. They download apps from app stores, install updates, connect to public WiFi—all without IT intervention. Companies need control over devices they DON’T own to ensure sensitive data does not fall into unauthorized hands.

As the era of remote, digital workplace slowly takes over its centralized, IT-administered counterpart, UEM adoption becomes critical for MSPs to ensure complete endpoint security. Apart from security, UEM software also puts user experience first by enabling device management from a single console as opposed to many. Managing multiple consoles comes with a hefty price tag—each one needs to be installed and monitored by focused IT experts, hiring whom can be a costly and time-consuming affair.

Benefits of Unified Endpoint Management

At the core of UEM software is the simplification of IT management with a unified glass pane view and maximum endpoint security with the establishment of zero trust security. There are more. 

UEM-benefits.jpg

Comprehensive single-pane architecture

Managing desktop and mobile devices with different sources of truth seemed to work until a certain point. But companies quickly realized that employees in any digital-first workplace should have critical data at their fingertips in order to make informed decisions quickly. Unified Endpoint Management enables this by:

  • avoiding complicated integration of disparate devices to retrieve any cross-platform data.

  • collecting historical data with a single console that spans across the whole stack of device monitors.

  • providing descriptive dashboards to give real-time visibility into assets at a single glance.

Modernization of endpoint management

Monitoring and securing a multi-device and multi-OS environment spread across a range of desktop devices, mobile phones, and software is no mean feat. UEM platforms introduce companies to a more modern and centralized IT approach. They need not have separate solutions and vendors who are divided between mobile or desktop or operating systems. Simply put, you can lock down endpoint management of all your devices within one console, one vendor, and one contract, with the ability to configure and enforce consistent policies across the infrastructure. Say, you’re rolling out an encryption policy or dispatching a patch, would you want to do it at one go or one by one?   

Maximum endpoint security

For security-focused companies who want to enforce an absolute zero trust environment with no loophole for data breaches, UEM’s non-negotiable security policies are a godsend. From identity access management that controls the provision of the right resources to the right person to mitigation capabilities that enable you to respond decisively and quickly in case a threat arises, UEM has got MSPs covered. 

Device agnosticism

In a productivity-focused environment, employees are not restricted on what devices they use to get work done. It’s also much easier to allow users to work with devices they are comfortable with rather than training and confirming them to use a static device that you want them to use. Being device-agnostic, UEM enables employees to stay productive with whatever device they use, from corporate-owned to personally-owned and everything in between.

Productivity and cost control

An average company has 464 custom applications in active use, a report suggested a few years ago. The number would’ve only amplified since then. Putting a system in place to manage not only the applications, but also the data on them, and how the data interacts with fellow apps has become the central objective for companies. Imagine the cost that would be incurred if the applications need individual deployment and maintenance according to the device or software type. That’s a surefire way to lose your deposit. 

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Steps for successful UEM deployment 

UEM deployment typically consists of this four-step process.

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How to choose the right UEM tool

As mentioned earlier, there is a gap in the knowledge of what UEM is capable of. It can be difficult to choose the right UEM tool if you don’t know what to expect. Make sure the solution you choose checks the following boxes and you’re good to go.

choose-right-uem.jpg

  1. The tool supports various operating systems including Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux instead of just hyper-focusing on popular operating systems like Apple or Android.

  2. The tool puts user experience first. Enrolling their devices and understanding the tool usage shouldn’t be a steep learning curve for employees.

  3. The tool integrates well with your existing ticketing system and security solutions.

  4. The tool satisfies compliance requirements with industry and government regulations such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

  5. The tool provides condition-based and role-based access instead of mere binary (0-1) level access. 

  6. The tool has an option to provide MAM-only access, which means if a company doesn’t want to control their employees’ personal devices they don’t. They just control the corporate apps.

  7. The tool has automation capabilities that help companies cut costs on recurring processes such as device deployment and onboarding.

  8. The tool makes updating and managing patches hassle-free. 

  9. The tool provider supports initial set-up, migration, and training if need be.

  10. The tool has transparent pricing. Hidden costs are usually associated with bundled solutions and you want to err on the side of caution.

Some tend to base their choice of UEM purely on price points or the number of endpoints or users only to find that their new software doesn't meet their needs. Take a look at the 10 best UEM software in the market compared extensively against each other based on price, feature availability, and other crucial factors.

What’s in store for UEM

If security is one driving force of UEM adoption, seamless user experience and productivity are the other. In a market where every company would offer remote endpoint management and a good one at that, MSPs are realizing the only way to move ahead is to stand out. They need a solution that facilitates efficiency, ease of user experience, and productivity rather than one that merely monitors devices.

With a unified endpoint management software that saves the hassle of context-switching and the cost to hire multiple vendors to handle multiple devices, MSPs can seamlessly maximize their secure, mobile-first endpoint management offerings.

Now, what’s in store for UEM? Big things! Market analysts suggest a growing demand for AI-driven automation to be engineered in UEM solutions, to make way for intelligent systems that can deliver far superior user experiences. 

Frequently asked questions

We have them answered.

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