RIM Launches Free Cloud-Based Smartphone Management Tool For SMBs

Many businesses have discovered the benefits of equipping its staff with smartphones (powerful mobile computing and communication, etc.), and probably just about as many have experienced the downsides, too (lost/broken/stolen phones, management headaches, etc.). Research In Motion released a cloud-based management solution, called BlackBerry Management Center, that is designed to help companies with between 3-100 smartphone users more easily manage their fleet of devices and alleviate some of those problems.

First off, BlackBerry Management Center is free, which is everyone’s favorite price. Second, it’s designed to require “little or no technical skills to use” (according to the product page), which is a way of saying that a supervisor could manage her own group’s BlackBerrys instead of relying on the IT department.

BlackBerry Management Center works with company-issued smartphones or with an employee’s personally-owned device and requires no additional hardware or software; the program is SaaS, so all managers have to do is sign up for and log in to the online service.

From the management console, administrators can do things such as add or remove email accounts remotely and also deliver general technical support for end users. Further, if a phone is lost or stolen, the administrator can remotely lock or wipe it, thereby avoiding potentially damaging data breaches--both for the company and, in the case of someone using their own personal BlackBerry in the company’s service, for the individual.

Whomever in the company is running BlackBerry Management Center can also display a message on a missing device with instructions for returning it. If an employee has simply misplaced a smartphone but has a vague idea of where it is, the administrator can remotely trigger the phone to ring very loudly--sort of the business equivalent of having your spouse call your phone while you’re rummaging for it around the house.

A sample screenshot of BlackBerry Management Center

BlackBerrys managed by the BlackBerry Management Center must have BlackBerry Device Software v4.6 or later as well as a data plan with Internet access.

The BlackBerry Management Center looks to be a smart product because it gives SMBs a way to manage smartphones centrally and remotely without an expensive and complex enterprise solution to deal with. However, for bigger operations with more smartphones in the fleet, RIM offers commensurate management tools in the form of other products.