Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) has launched a new tool for small businesses that want to prevent data from leaking from their employees’ mobile devices.
On Monday, HP said it was releasing Touchpoint Manager, a mobile device management (MDM) tool that will give IT administrators control over their employees’ smartphones and tablets – that is, as long as they’re running iOS, Android, or Windows operating systems.
While MDM software isn’t new, what’s different about this particular tool is that it’ll be serving small business customers, rather than the enterprise. And unlike other MDM tools, Touchpoint Manager can manage much more than just mobile devices.
“AirWatch and MobileIron are specifically around smartphones and tablets in a mobile environment. The difference of this service is that we’re actually encompassing full-blown PC management as well … We’re the only ones coming to the market with one service that can run across all these operating systems, as well as all these device types,” said Michael Park, vice-president and general manager of the printer and personal systems group at HP.
“So if you buy an Airwatch or a MobileIron … you get coverage over Android, iOS, and Windows mobile for managing mobile phones, and to some degree, tablets. But when you’re managing a PC environment in a company, you’re typically managing a different kind of infrastructure that requires some heavier duty lifting, because you typically have some pretty mission-critical data sitting on the hard drive.”
To serve small businesses, Touchpoint Manager is meant to be simple and easy to use. As soon as employees volunteer to opt in, they make their devices visible to IT administrators, who will be able to see device activity on a dashboard.
The dashboard also shows if employees’ devices are enrolled in the system, their contact details, addresses, the types of devices they use, and so on, as well as the status of the devices – for example, if they have a firewall turned on, or if they’re healthy and malware-free. If an employee has lost a device, an IT administrator can sound an alarm, remotely lock the device, or wipe the data that’s housed on it.
And in the next quarter, HP is planning to add a geofencing option, which will automatically trigger locking a device or wiping it if a device user leaves a specific area.
However, one interesting and potentially troubling facet of the Touchpoint Manager dashboard is that it can show IT administrators the location and whereabouts of their employees’ mobile devices. That’s a feature that can’t be switched off for this version of the tool, meaning IT administrators can pretty much constantly keep tabs on their colleagues.
HP has spent more than a year working on this tool, according to Park, who admitted the company was “late to the game” when it came to servicing businesses that embraced the bring-your-own-device trend.
Nor are there any plans to add BlackBerry to the list of compatible operating systems right now, despite that company’s focus on data security, due to being uncertain about the devices BlackBerry would be revealing this year. However, HP is planning to add support for the Apple Mac operating system sometime in the future.
Pricing is set at about $2 per user per month for a basic plan, or $10 per user per month with a pro plan. The tool is available now in Canada, the U.S., and seven other countries.