BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
Unified endpoint management (UEM) is an approach to securing and controlling desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets in a connected, cohesive manner from a single console. Unified endpoint management typically relies on the mobile device management (MDM) application program interfaces (APIs) in desktop and mobile operating systems.
Microsoft's inclusion of MDM application program interfaces in Windows 10 made unified endpoint management a possibility on a large scale. Prior to the release of Windows 8.1, there was no way for MDM software to access, secure or control the operating system and its applications.
In Windows 10, the tasks IT can perform through MDM software include:
- configuring devices' VPN, email and Wi-Fi settings;
- enforcing passcode and access policies;
- installing patches and updates;
- blacklisting and whitelisting applications; and
- installing and managing Universal Windows Platform (.appx) and Microsoft Installer (.msi) applications.
Mobile device management is significantly less robust than traditional Windows management tools, however. Examples of tasks information technology (IT) administrators can't perform through Windows 10 MDM APIs include:
- deploying and managing legacy executable (.exe) applications;
- enforcing encryption;
- deploying Group Policy Objects; and
- managing printers, file shares and other domain-based resources.
Many vendors market UEM as a feature of their broader enterprise mobility management (EMM) software suites and some EMM vendors have made strides to close the gap between MDM and traditional Windows management tools. For example, MobileIron Bridge allows IT administrators to use MDM to deploy scripts that modify the Windows 10 file system and registry and perform other advanced tasks, including deploying legacy.exe applications.
Other vendors that support UEM include VMware, Citrix, BlackBerry and Apple. Apple's Mac OS X operating system has included MDM APIs since at least 2012, when AirWatch and MobileIron announced support. Today, all of the major vendors that offer UEM also support OS X.