Managing BlackBerry devices without RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server

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I recently described 10 key practices for organizations that rely on RIM's BlackBerry and BlackBerry Enterprise Server and are looking to migrate to alternative options.

One crucial point about migrating off RIM's BlackBerry and BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) is to consider a phased transition approach. Rather than completely cutting the BlackBerry cord and replacing all the devices and related infrastructure with iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and Windows Phone handsets, it is possible to continue supporting BlackBerry users while transitioning away from related infrastructure provided by RIM.

Several mobile management solutions on the market can provide many of the core BES requirements for BlackBerry devices as well as for Apple's iOS devices, a range of Android phones and tablets, and Windows Phone handsets.

This makes it possible to shift from RIM's infrastructure and support BlackBerry users while building the foundation for a post-BlackBerry operations including the basic technical framework for BYOD and support for user-owned devices.

There are two key priorities to keep in mind when you're looking for a mobile management suite that can help you transition from RIM's solutions.

Baseline security requirements. While RIM makes it possible to lock down virtually every aspect of a BlackBerry device, no mobile management vendor is going to replicate all 500+ policy options that a BES offers. That means that you'll need to determine which management and security capabilities are critical versus merely desired. In selecting a BES alternative, you'll need to compare that must-have list against the BlackBerry management capabilities of each vendor.

If you plan to transition away from the BlackBerry completely, this process will also help you determine what your true needs are for any mobile OS or device -- a key consideration as you begin to adopt iOS, Android, or Windows Phone devices.

BES coexistence. While many mobile management suites include BlackBerry devices as part of the mix they support, some do so by integrating with an existing BES solution. In those cases, the selling point is often that a product streamlines management and can provide a unified management console for BlackBerries in addition to other types of devices. That's a positive option, but it isn't the same thing as  a true BES alternative or replacement.

A List Of Providers

Here's a list of solutions that can offer some level of BlackBerry management and that replicate at least some of the BES security and management functionality, along with the other current mobile platforms that each supports (any support for discontinued platforms like Windows Mobile or HP's webOS is not included in this list).

  • Amtel - Also supports Android, iOS, Symbian, and Windows Phone
  • BoxTone - Also supports Android and iOS
  • Excitor DME - Also supports Android, iOS, and Symbian
  • McAffe Mobility Management - Also supports Android, iOS, and Windows Phone
  • MobileIron - Also supports Android, iOS, Symbian, and Windows Phone
  • NotifyMDM - Also supports Android, iOS, Symbian, and Windows Phone
  • PushManager - Also supports Android, iOS, Symbian, and Windows Phone
  • Sophos Mobile Control - Also supports Android and iOS
  • Soti - Also supports Android, iOS, and Windows Phone
  • Sybase/SAP Afaria - Also supports Android and iOS
  • Tangoe - Also supports Android, iOS, Symbian, and Windows Phone
  • Zenprise - Also supports Android, iOS, Symbian, and Windows Phone

These solutions should get a serious look if you're a BlackBerry organization concerned about the possibility of RIM collapsing -- either from a technical perspective in terms of outages and issues related to reduced and repositioned staffing, or from a business perspective in the case of an event such as bankruptcy or acquisition.

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