IBM’s MaaS360 had a leadership position in the mobile device management (MDM) space the last time we reviewed it and it’s maintained that standing this time around. While the platform includes all the features you’d expect in an MDM solution, having IBM behind it lets the platform take advantage of Big Blue’s considerable software muscle, including IBM’s Watson technology with which it delivers artificial intelligence (AI)-based security features and reporting. The AI Advisor provides real-time
insights based on information gathered from all devices under management. All of that combines to make this a worthy Editors’ Choice pick in the MDM space along with VMware AirWatch.
Unique technology solutions tend to come with an added cost and such is the case with IBM MaaS360. Compared to the other four products in this review it sits near the top in cost per unit starting at $5 per device and going up from there. While it is missing features like remote control, it also delivers other capabilities such as the AI-driven reporting and risk-based conditional access not found in any of the other products. IBM MaaS360 is aimed at the enterprise customer which would have a much easier time justifying a higher cost.
Installation and Device Registration
Signing up for a trial with MaaS360 is much like the other products reviewed although you won’t have to respond to a verification email. A company email address is required so you won’t be able to register with any public service like Google Gmail, but a registered corporate domain like you’d get through a service such as Microsoft Office 365 Business. A Quick Start process leads you through configuring users and then any default policies you want to enforce, such as a PIN lock. These become the default for new enrollments.
Before you start the enrollment process you will need to have an Apple Push Certificate installed and the appropriate Google Android Enterprise account information. Enrolling individual devices is straightforward with support for all the popular Android and Apple methods. Invitations can be sent via email or SMS. MaaS360 provides a QR code to make entering the pertinent information much easier and error free. Bulk enrollment can be tied to a user directory, like Microsoft Active Directory, or through importing a list of names and emails in a CSV file.
MaaS360 fully supports personally owned Android devices for folks seeking to implement a bring your own device (BYOD) scenario. This method creates a separate secondary work profile for storing corporate apps and data. An orange briefcase symbol is used to identify corporate apps in the case where a version exists in both profiles. For Apple iOS devices you must install an MDM profile using the settings app. It does require a few extra steps but provides the same app and data separation you get with Android.
Management and Policies
Unlike more basic offerings, like Baramundi Management Suite, IBM has equipped MaaS360 with a fully customizable management console that enables you to move things like specific alerts within the My Alert Center area. By default, the home screen includes the My Advisor panel driven by IBM’s Watson AI capability. This will show any security or risk alerts that the system detects such as unpatched devices, which represent a common and dangerous threat both to the user and the corporate network. Another handy visualization is the My Activity Feed that shows the last eight administrator actions as clickable links. Hovering over the link with the mouse shows a quick summary of the action while clicking on the link takes you to the details page for that event.
Unlike most of its small business competition, reporting is one of MaaS360’s star features. That’s due to the connection with IBM’s Watson machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) platform. This has gelled into several unique capabilities, including Mobile Metrics for MaaS360. This provides cloud-based benchmarking for device deployments. This tool analyzes your environment looking for security issues and offers comparative information across industry-specific domains. These guidelines help administrators configure policies consistent with industry norms. About the only dig we can mention about reporting is the limited customization that’s available. Even with that, however, MaaS360 maintains a considerable lead in reporting over smaller competition, like AppTec360.
Another help with reporting and day-to-day management is the advanced search tool, which lets you quickly search for devices based on multiple criteria without the need to know any SQL commands. From the Device Inventory page you can quickly take action on individual or groups of devices. This comes in handy when you need to send out a group message or potentially disable a list of devices due to some corporate requirement. MaaS360 does not currently offer remote control as found in SOTI MobiControl and ManageEngine MDM.
One final way that MaaS360 really shows its enterprise orientation is by providing a comprehensive set of identity management integration services. Supported directories include on-premises Microsoft Active Directory (AD), Microsoft Azure AD, OpenLDAP, Novell LDAP, IBM Domino LDAP, and Oracle User Directory. Integrating with directory services like these, makes it possible to maintain a central user identity for all corporate devices, including managed mobile devices.
Pricing starts at $5 per device per month for basic MDM features plus the container and secure work apps. The enterprise endpoint goes up to $9 per device per month.
Overall, IBM MaaS360 is a solid choice for both small businesses and enterprises. It provides not only all the basic capabilities you’d expect in an MDM solution, but adds several more advanced options, especially around AI-driven management and reporting tools. These are features you won’t find in most other products. Additionally, the user-friendly management console makes it easy to accomplish common tasks. The only real ding here is that IBM didn’t include native remote control. The fact that this requires a third-party app isn’t great, but still won’t be bad enough to dissuade most buyers.