Sophos Mobile Control
Strengths: Full of features and relatively easy to deploy and support – excellent documentation. No need to go to commercial app stores.
Weaknesses: None that we found.
Verdict: For its strong feature set, value for money, ease of use and deployment, we make this our Best Buy.
Out of the gate we need to say that this product impressed us. First, it was the only one that did not require us to go to a commercial app store even though it does offer that option for those who wish it. It is a bit more challenging to deploy from the Sophos site without going to the commercial app store, however.
This was provided to us an executable installation file for the Mobile Control server and it went in smoothly. The documentation led us through installation and initial setup. We set up a Server2008 instance on our VMware test bed and the implementation was straightforward. Once we had the server installed - there is an installation guide dedicated to that - we got to the more difficult part: starting up and configuring the server and the environment.
As one might expect with a lot of deployment options, there are a lot of configuration options to support them. That certainly was the case here. There are a lot of steps, but the startup guide walks you through the complete process with good screen shots. This is the kind of documentation support we have come to expect from mature digital security products. That is not to say this one just slid into place, but every time we ran up against a brick wall there was something in the documentation to help us through it.
Sophos Mobile Control (SMC) documentation begins with a look at the architecture so that you can make decisions about how you want to deploy. The installation guide has well-illustrated diagrams of your choices and what you need to deploy in the DMZ or in the background with incoming and outgoing traffic, for example. There also are detailed tables providing appropriate ports and protocols.
Once through the server installation and preliminary setup, the startup guide takes over and you're into the configuration. That is a lot more detailed and complex than the server setup. However, the documentation covers all of the bases and the wizard walks you through the process. The compliance rules/policies are easy to set up and quite comprehensive. The setup for iOS is more complicated than for Android and we can thank Apple for that. However, again, the documentation walked us through the process of getting an Apple Push Notification service in place.
Once the server was in place and performing as it was intended, we used the iPad Mini provided by Sophos to set up a user. We started by zeroing the iPad so that we would have a "from scratch" installation. Once we had the tablet on our Wi-Fi network, it talked to the server without difficulty and setup for the user was quite simple. It consisted - on the administrator end - of entering the user into the system, and there are a couple of ways to do that, including individual users and bulk loading from a csv file. From that point the user takes over and self-provisions his or her device.
This is a system that depends heavily on well-planned workflows. Again, this is the right way to deploy complicated products or systems. The SMC is a full-featured MDM tool and comes with everything you need for complete device management. As well, 24/7 support comes with the product, but if you need more aid, for additional fees there are premium and platinum levels. The website is comprehensive and there are a lot of resources, including a support portal, a knowledge base and FAQ. Pricing - especially considering included support - is aggressive and it is a very good value.