AT&T has expanded its cloud Relevant Products/Services-based Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions for small businesses. The new services, available for companies with as few as 20 employees, include ones previously available only to larger enterprise Relevant Products/Services customers.

The telecommunications giant noted that its 2012 Small Business Technology Poll found nearly 90 percent of small businesses use smartphones, and more than 40 percent reported their employees use their phones for work while away from the office. This is an increase of nearly 80 percent over the last three years.

Lost Device Detection

Chris Hill, Vice President for Advanced Mobility Solutions at AT&T Business and Home Solutions, said in a statement that "small businesses often lack the IT resources to maintain control over dozens of different smartphones and tablets, stretching their time and budget to the limit."

Features in the AT&T MDM solution include lost device detection, password recovery, device lock, wipe and encryption, as well as remote configuration of e-mail, Wi-Fi and Virtual Private Networks.

There are also asset management features, so that businesses can keep track of company-owned devices, and capabilities for distribution of applications to employees from businesses. Small businesses can also control how company-owned smartphones are used, via whitelist/blacklist capabilities.

Fast-Growing Category

Mobile device management is a fast-growing category, since the center of computing and communications has moved to mobile Relevant Products/Services devices. Complicating the move to mobile for IT departments, however, is the growing trend of "bring your own device."

The number of products addressing these trends keeps growing, while existing products, like AT&T's, are rapidly adding capabilities. For instance, Avaya released in July an updated version of its IP Office, a unified Relevant Products/Services communications offering for small- and mid-size businesses. That new version, 8.1, added new mobility, management and security Relevant Products/Services features that were specifically designed for BYOD environments.

Citrix described its recently released version 2 of its CloudGateway as "the first product in the industry to offer customers a single unified control point for all mobile, Web, SaaS and Windows app and data Relevant Products/Services, across any mix of corporate and personal devices."

BYOD Trend

If it was in a stronger market position, Research In Motion could be a dominant player in this field, given its base among businesses. Late last year, the Canadian company introduced its next-generation enterprise management platform -- designed not only for the management of BlackBerry devices, data and apps, but also for iOS and Android devices.

Analyst Laura DiDio noted that her firm, Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, recently released a survey about the BYOD trend. It polled 550 companies worldwide this summer, and found that 62 percent now allow their employees to use their own devices for work -- including desktops as well as mobile devices.

She said the MDM market would continue to grow, as the top three challenges cited by BYOD companies were difficulty of management and support, provisioning new applications and security.

DiDio also pointed out that, while small businesses use mobile devices about as much as larger businesses, they are much more dependent on mobile communications and apps to run their businesses.