How to Choose the Right Enterprise Mobility Management Solution for Your School

Mobile devices have become an indelible part of K-12 education. Many students bring their personal smartphones, tablets and laptops into the school environment. One-to-one device programs are commonplace, helping ensure that all students have access to the resources they need.

The benefits of these devices are significant, but there are also challenges. Schools must control access to inappropriate content and ensure that devices don’t introduce threats into the network. It’s no longer feasible to restrict Internet access or prohibit personal devices. Schools need technology tools that help keep children safe while enabling personalized learning and active collaboration.

This has made enterprise mobility management (EMM) imperative in K-12. In essence, an EMM solution allows IT staff to control students’ and teachers’ devices to ensure that they meet minimum security requirements and are being used responsibly.

Enterprise-class EMM solutions streamline the provisioning, configuration and security of all the endpoint devices within the IT environment. Administrators use the EMM platform to monitor devices connected to the network, push out applications and system settings, and enforce security policies and access controls. The solution should be easy to use to reduce the burden on IT staff.

What to Look for in EMM

There are certain features any organization should look for when evaluating EMM options. K-12 schools also have special factors to consider.

  • Operating System and Platform Compatibility. Schools typically purchase one type of device when implementing one-to-one programs. However, schools that allow personal devices must support the wide variety of endpoints that students, faculty and staff use to access the environment. The EMM solution should be platform-agnostic so that there are no visibility gaps.
  • User Onboarding. Some EMM solutions have complex onboarding processes that require extensive IT involvement. That’s just not practical in K-12. Schools need an EMM platform that readily detects unmanaged devices and walks users through device enrollment.
  • Robust Security Enforcement. Administrators need a solution that checks for jailbroken devices and outdated OS or software versions. The solution should also provide granular control over the use of certain applications and services and access to content. Because students in different grade levels, along with faculty and staff, will have different restrictions, policy settings must be highly customizable.
  • Application Support. EMM shouldn’t just monitor devices — it should provide visibility into applications. EMM must support all the applications and services used in the environment, and integrate Active Directory/LDAP, network management and other administrative tools.
  • Management Interface and Reporting. The management interface should be easy to use yet provide a robust suite of tools for monitoring and managing endpoints. A dashboard should provide an at-a-glance view of real-time performance and alerts, and reporting features should include more in-depth, device-level analytics.

Cisco Meraki System Manager

Cerium has worked with schools throughout the Northwest to develop an effective EMM strategy. For many schools, the foundational component is Cisco Meraki System Manager, Cisco’s endpoint management solution. Meraki System Manager offers native integration with Cisco Meraki networking products, allowing schools to utilize one intuitive cloud-based platform for administration of their endpoints, LAN, WAN and security tools.

Native network integration also simplifies many administrative tasks. For example, Meraki access points can detect unmanaged devices that try to join the network and send a splash page instructing the user on how to install System Manager. Administrators can create multiple enrollment options based upon device type and push out configurations from the Meraki cloud.

Network access is also controlled based upon granular policy settings. At the same time, firewalls rules, content filtering and other network settings can be changed dynamically for each device that connects. Applications can be distributed to any number of users with a few clicks, and app security managed through permit and deny lists.

The System Manager dashboard provides real-time diagnostic tools and customizable alerts. System Manager gathers device data to simplify asset management and software licensing and compliance.

Enterprise-class EMM has become a necessity in the K-12 environment. Let Cerium help you develop an endpoint management strategy and determine if Cisco Meraki System Manager is right for your school.

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