Emerging Tech: What is Unified Endpoint Management (UEM)
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It can sometimes seem that technology is evolving and developing at breakneck speed. Every week seems to bring something new, whether it is totally innovative or an improvement on existing tech. As a result, you could be forgiven for often feeling overwhelmed by the tsunami of new terms, words, and acronyms you have to deal with.
For staff on the ground, they need to manage the various devices within their organization. That can include devices used by the various departments and teams that operate within your organization. For example, outbound contact centers may utilize multiple devices to carry out daily work. One process that can help with that is called unified endpoint management. But, just what is unified endpoint management, and how does it actually help?
What is unified endpoint management?
Unified endpoint management (UEM) is a type of software application that allows you to manage all devices (or a chosen range of devices) that are utilized by your organization. Your company likely uses multiple enterprise-level devices and applications, and UEM allows you to manage these efficiently.
Of course, managing devices and applications at the enterprise level is nothing new. UEM is the new generation of device management software, and previous to that, you had EMM (enterprise mobility management) and MDM (mobile device management). These were all developed to meet business needs as the use of mobile devices increased and the many new SaaS, cloud-based, and mobile apps being used by businesses.
Where UEM takes a step forward is that there is an expansion in the amount and type of devices and applications it can manage. That includes PCs (Windows and macOS), wearable devices, and IoT (internet of things) devices. UEM can now also manage identity and access functionality.
Further to that, if you use UEM, you can also manage a range of security features and configurations that may be embedded in client apps and on devices that may not be owned or managed by your company.
If you choose to switch to UEM, you will have to formulate a UEM strategy that includes some major decisions such as how you will approach the delivery of applications, if and how you will support different types of devices, how you will deal with devices that are owned by employees (including privacy issues), network access, managing identities, and what the experience of your employees will be.
How Did UEM Evolve?
As with many software applications, the question is not just what is unified endpoint management, but also how did it evolve? You will be used to seeing different versions of software as the developers make improvements and add features. UEM is another step forward in enterprise-level management of devices and tools.
It is often the case that the development of one product creates the need for another, and so it was with UEM and its predecessors. As smartphones became more popular within the business world, products were developed to integrate them into your business networks and systems. Probably the first were enterprise email clients and MAM (mobile app management) tools such as Nitrodesk Touchdown.
You would have then seen MDM tools with Android 2.2 and iOS 4 (both themselves evolutions of earlier versions) that had APIs (application programming interfaces) that allowed for remote management via an MDM server.
In the early stages of management tools, MDM tended to be separate from other client management tools, which mainly worked on the management of PC devices. The next stage of evolution saw MDM and MAM into one unified platform, becoming known as EMM products. These products allowed a business to manage devices using MDM protocols and APIs.
Then we come to UEM, the next and inevitable stage of evolution. UEM came about as people combined EMM with existing client management tools. This wasn’t necessarily a linear evolution, as several approaches were used. In some cases, client management tools added support for mobile devices by utilizing MDM protocols. In other cases, organizations linked EMM platforms with their client management platforms, allowing visibility and management of both.
In tandem with these developments, desktop OS started including the ability of remote management with their own MDM protocols and APIs. This then allowed UEM to include desktops in the range of devices supported. That was then followed by a cascade effect as more MDM options were added to expand the types of devices supported and then to add more client management aspects.
While you may ask, what is unified endpoint management, there is no definitive answer as it is continuing to evolve and develop in several areas, though mostly by expanding the types of software it can integrate with. In recent times, this has included access and identity management, security products, productivity tools, and performance monitoring.
Why Choose UEM?
With so many device management systems available, it is natural for any organization to ask what is unified endpoint management going to do differently from those systems or from the one you are currently using. As mentioned, UEM is a step forward from other systems, so it is going to bring new features and integrations to your business.
With MDM, the focus was mainly on managing mobile devices used by your organization by using MDM APIs and protocols. You may want your mobile devices for many activities, and knowing what caller ID is may be a required function. Those functions are now just one of many features offered by a UEM platform, so you get what MDM provided and much more.
Similarly, MAM, which allowed for efficient management of mobile apps, is just one part of what UEM offers you. EMM is probably the closest to UEM as it developed into a process that included the functionality of MAM and MDM that previous platforms. EMM evolved into UEM when it began supporting macOS and Windows devices and other devices.
Enterprise-level client management tools have been around for 20 years and are still used by many organizations. These are primarily focused on PCs, however, and will likely be replaced by UEM in the near future.
What Are the Benefits Of UEM?
Depending on the nature of your business, there is a good chance that mobile and other devices are used at the enterprise level for things that are critical to your business and may involve a high degree of handling sensitive information. Other businesses may wait to switch to UEM as they don’t need that same level of device management. UEM can offer several benefits:
Easier and quicker to manage multiple devices than to do it manually.
Unified visibility of all devices relevant to business operations.
Management from any location.
Simple integration with both security and analytics.
Based on more modern concepts and ideas than traditional client management tools.
One of the beauties of UEM is that it combines components of traditional client management systems with new features that meet the challenges faced by businesses today.
Managing devices. This is the main component and role of UEM. It connects to devices using an MDM protocol, which allows your service to connect and interact with devices and to send them queries and commands via the internet.
Advanced device management. With UEM, you can set password policies, manage app and operating system updates, configure encryption, email, and Wi-Fi connections, as well as being able to track devices (and remotely lock or unlock them), and make configuration settings to prevent data loss.
Wide-ranging support. While the main focus is on mobile devices. Most UEM platforms allow for multiple device types, including desktop devices.
Apple abilities. Apple has many in-house protocols, and its MDM includes several modes for corporate scenarios. However, macOS management is a growing field, and most UEM platforms will be of benefit.
Android abilities. It used to be the case that Android management was fragmented and often inefficient. But since Android 5, which introduced the Android Enterprise management framework, that management is far more flexible and efficient.
Windows management. Since Windows added an MDM protocol, it means that UEM vendors can more simply work with the system and usurp the roles of the client management tools that were more traditionally used.
Your c-suite may well ask; what is unified endpoint management and how it will benefit our organization. If your business is using mobile and other devices for critical operations and handling confidential data, it could be argued that switching to UEM now is a necessity rather than a choice, as it is a vast improvement on traditional client management systems.
Given the wide range of devices utilized for business and the fact that many employees also use personal devices for business purposes, having a platform that helps manage all those different devices and operating systems is a huge step forward. UEM will also likely continue to evolve and add new and better functionality to its current offerings.
While some organizations may be hesitant to switch to UEM, it actually makes more sense to switch now than to wait for later versions. It can supersede the software you are currently using and combine the functionality of different systems and software to give you a unified tool that delivers all the functions and features you need.
About the Writer
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. Jenna Bunnell also published articles for domains such as PingPlotter and CIENCE. Check out her LinkedIn profile.