As a senior research coordinator for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, Jonathan Sury is open to tools that can help him manage IT issues more efficiently. “Tech support is not my main job, it’s just one of the many jobs I do here at the center to support research operations,” he says.
Over the past year, the New York City center has led a study on families impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Field researchers use 45 to interview family members and others who survived the storm.
In the past, Sury managed no more than 10 mobile devices at a time, which in itself was a significant time and resource burden. But the large number of devices used by the Hurricane Sandy project prompted the deployment of IBM/Fiberlink’s MaaS360 cloud service to help Sury manage them.
Along with remotely wiping lost or stolen devices, Sury taps Google Apps accounts and pushes out apps and configurations to the devices via MaaS360. MaaS360 enables him to lock down devices in kiosk mode to provide the field team with only the apps they need and to prevent device configuration and application changes.
“A lot of my time was spent on setup, supporting individual users and updating the devices one by one,” Sury says. “Now, I can set the profiles and get all the applications loaded in 15 to 20 minutes. MaaS360 has really helped me significantly cut down on my support time, which was often spent walking remote users through step-by-step troubleshooting.”
Chris Silva, a research director who covers mobile and endpoint computing for Gartner, notes that like the center, many universities are moving past basic mobile device management to pushing apps and managing content.
“Mobile strategy started with basic device controls, but we’ve seen a lot more interest in pushing custom content to users’ devices,” Silva says. “This year, we’ll see a lot more activity in building custom mobile apps.”
A Full Complement of Features
The Indiana University of Pennsylvania began using AirWatch by VMware about three years ago for basic mobile device management functions to support bring-your-own-device initiatives for 14,500 students.
“The AirWatch tool lets us remotely wipe lost or stolen devices and push VPN settings to the devices, it was very straightforward to set up and met our needs,” says Ben Dadson, IT coordinator of desktop services for the university.
IUP took AirWatch to the next level over the past few years by pushing academic applications out to tablets that were loaded onto carts in the classroom. “Students can walk into a history class and load up an app, and for the next class literature students could load up a different app, all on the same device,” Dadson says. In the future, Dadson hopes to extend this capability so students can load academic applications onto their personal devices.
IUP also uses AirWatch’s Secure Content Locker feature, which protects local data and user content stored on mobile devices.