Product Review: 2X Mobile Device Management

Product: 2X Mobile Device Management

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The proliferation of mobile devices within the enterprise has led to a need for comprehensive mobile device management. Although a number of competing mobile device management products exist, their capabilities are widely varying. One of the more recent entries into the mobile device management space comes from 2X, a company that is probably best known for their remote application server.

The 2X Mobile Device Management (2X MDM) is available as a cloud based service or an on premise deployment. For the purposes of this review, I used the cloud edition. I visited the 2X Web site and took advantage of the 2X MDM Free Sign Up.

I was very pleased with the sign up process. I write a lot of reviews and a lot of companies will ask for a credit card number up front or will require a phone number so that their sales people can hound you with high pressure sales calls. 2X didn’t do any of that. The sign up process consisted of providing an account name, a first and last name, an E-mail address, and a password. After that the service sent me a confirmation E-mail. I clicked a link within the E-mail and I was in business. It took less than five minutes for me to sign up. Kudos to 2X for making the process so simple and painless. I wish more software companies would follow 2X’s lead.

Another thing that I really liked was that 2X made it easy to get started with the review process. As I mentioned a moment ago, the registration process required me to click a link within a verification E-mail message. However, this E-mail message contained more than just a link. It also contained instructions for device enrollment. Devices can be enrolled by clicking on an E-mail link, but it is also possible to enroll a device manually, and the E-mail message contained instructions for doing so.

This brings up another point. Being that I was using a free trial, I wasn’t quite sure how many devices I would be able to manage. The E-mail explained that for the first month I could freely manage up to 250 devices. After that, the software can still be used to freely manage 5 devices indefinitely.

As for the devices themselves, 2X MDM supports Android and iOS devices, as well as Windows 7 and Windows 8 laptops. As such, 2X has covered the most popular device types, but I would have liked to have seen 2X provide support for a greater diversity of device operating systems. For instance, I would have liked to have seen support for Windows Phone, Windows XP, Windows RT, Linux, and Mac OSX.

Upon logging in for the first time, I was taken to the screen shown in Figure A. As you can see in the figure, I was prompted to enter the E-mail address of the users whose devices I wanted to manage. The software would then send the user a message containing a link that could be used to manage their devices. The message goes on to explain that you can add users one at a time or you can import users from a CSV file.

Figure A: This is the initial 2X MDM screen.

I started out by enrolling a Windows 8 computer. The software sent me an E-mail message containing an enrollment link. I clicked on the link and was taken to the screen shown in Figure B, which instructed me to download a client and a configuration file.

Figure B: Clicking on the enrollment link within the E-mail message took me to this screen.

The enrollment process proved to be simple, and should be well within the abilities of most users. After the enrollment completed, I received a message stating that the client was waiting for registration approval. I switched over to the 2X MDM console, selected the Pending Approval tab, and was able to approve the system. You can see the client that was waiting for approval and the 2X MDM interface in Figure C.

Figure C: This figure shows the Windows 8 client (waiting for approval) and the 2X MDM interface.

The enrollment process for iOS and Android devices proved to be just as easy. I simply opened the enrollment E-mail message, clicked on a link, and then installed to required app. The only caveat to this is that before you can enroll any iOS devices, you must acquire and install an Apple push certificate. Fortunately, this proved to be a painless process. I have to confess that I was unfamiliar with Apple’s procedure for requesting certificates, but 2X provided really good documentation that guided me through the process in a matter of less than five minutes.

After completing the enrollment process I decided to have a look around the user interface. I started out by checking out the Devices tab. This tab provides an overview of the managed devices and lists information such as the device name, user name, phone number, OS, version, and status (among other things).

For the most part, I thought that the Devices tab was well laid out. However, there are a series of tabs just above a map view and admittedly, I almost overlooked the existence of those tabs. The tabs are grayed out by default, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D: This is the Devices screen.

The tabs shown above the map come alive when you select a device. The nice thing about the tabs is that they are device sensitive. For example, when I was testing with a Windows 8 PC, the Call History and Data Usage tabs remained grayed out. However, when I selected an Android device (which has an associated phone number) the Call History tab was revealed. I found the Info and Applications tabs to be especially useful and I can imagine situations in which the Location History would be useful as well.

As I spent more time working with 2X MDM, I got the feeling that the software was well thought out and that 2X had covered all of the most important aspects of mobile device management. However, there were two things that I found to be especially well done.

The first thing that I really liked was the Configure Alerts interface. This might not be a big deal to some people, but I like to know what is going on with my network. The Configure Alerts dialog box provides a series of check boxes that you can use to enable or disable notifications for a variety of circumstances. For example, you can choose to be notified of clients that have been wiped, application control violations, and mobile data usage limits reached, just to name a few. You can see what this dialog box looks like in Figure E.

Figure E: You can turn alerts on and off with check boxes.

The other thing that I really liked was the group policies, which aren’t to be mistaken for native Windows group policies. In 2X MDM, group policies are essentially collections of policy settings that are grouped together. You can then assign mobile devices to the most appropriate groups.

The group policy settings do exactly the types of things that you would expect, such as allowing for device password control or application control. That in itself isn’t exactly remarkable. There are plenty of utilities that provide these sorts of capabilities. What really impressed me was the way that the settings were blended to support multiple mobile operating systems.

To show you what I mean, take a look at Figure F. In this figure, I have created a group policy called Test and then I went to the Applications tab. Notice that I have the option to add applications from Google Play, from an App Store, or from a repository. You will also notice that in addition to more generalized settings (which can be found on the Devices tab), there are OS specific settings on the Android Policy, iOS Policy, and Windows Policy tabs. As such, it is possible to create a single group that manages multiple device types.

Figure F: 2X did a great job blending mobile operating system support.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, the repository is a collection of apps that can be managed from within 2X MDM. You can see the App Repository in Figure G. There is also a whitelist repository and a blacklist repository.

Figure G: This is what the App Repository looks like.

Remote Control

Over the last several years, remote control has become a standard feature for help desk style PC management software. Even so, remote control capabilities are more or less unheard of when it comes to mobile device management. One of the really unique capabilities found in 2X Mobile Device Management is the ability to remotely control Android devices. The Remote Control feature works with Android 2.3 and above devices.

You can see what the remote control looks like in Figure H. The remote control view doesn’t really mimic the Android interface (at least not on my device), but that doesn’t matter. The remote control session gave me full device access through a familiar interface that looks and feels similar to Windows.

Figure H: This is a remote control session with an Android device.

Obviously, I wish that 2X MDM supported remote control for iOS and Windows, but I have to give 2X credit for doing something that to the best of my knowledge nobody else has done by providing remote control capabilities for Android.

Basic Functionality

The next thing that I wanted to do was to find out how well 2X MDM would handle basic, day to day management tasks. I started out attempting to lock an Android device. Upon doing so, I was presented with a screen that also gave me the option of forcing a password change (among other things). Locking worked as expected. I was also able to lock an iPhone and in both cases received an E-mail message confirming the lock. When I attempted to lock a PC, I received an error message but the PC locked any way.

The next thing that I attempted was wiping a device. That process worked flawlessly.

2X MDM also has some built in E-mail management capabilities. It is possible to use the management interface to configure the device to receive E-mail. I attempted to set up an E-mail account on an Android device. Upon doing so, I received a message indicating that I needed to install AquaMail to the device. Fortunately, 2X MDM allowed me to treat AquaMail as a compulsory application.

The interface used for setting up an E-mail account asks for quite a bit of information, as shown in Figure I, but there is nothing too out of the ordinary required.

Figure I: This is the screen that you will see when you attempt to set up an E-mail account on an Android device.

The next thing that I decided to take a look at was the Wi-Fi management. This feature works similarly to E-mail management in that it allows you to configure Wi-Fi connectivity for a device. In my case, 2X MDM automatically picked up on my device’s Wi-Fi configuration, but gave me the option to add, edit, and delete Wi-Fi networks.

After spending a few minutes playing with the Wi-Fi settings, I decided to try out the messaging feature. You are able to send on screen messages to iOS and Android devices (PCs are not supported). I tried sending bulk message blasts and I also sent messages to individual devices. Both operations worked without issue.

One last thing that I decided to try was the Location history feature. This feature shows all of the places where the device has been used recently. When I tried this feature, I expected to see GPS coordinates. Surprisingly, the GPS coordinates were accompanied with the physical address where the device was used and a map of the location. In my tests, the address was correct and the map was only off by about 50 feet. I was really impressed by how well the location history works.

The Verdict

All in all I really like 2X MDM. Admittedly, the user interface took a little bit of getting used to, but it didn’t take me long to catch on. Furthermore, I never had to reference the documentation for anything other than acquiring an Apple certificate. I should also mention that the 2X MDM offers far more capabilities than I have discussed in this review. My goal was to test a representative sampling of features, as opposed to trying out every available feature.

My only real complaint about the software is that I wish it supported a wider variety of devices. As I said before, iOS, Android, and Windows 7 and 8 are supported, but I think that at the very least 2X should consider adding support for Mac OSX and Windows XP. Although not as important, I would really like to see support for Windows Phone added as well. There were also some areas in which feature support was somewhat inconsistent from one device type to the next, but in all fairness I have to chalk this up to limitations imposed by the device manufacturers. Other mobile device management applications suffer from the same limitations.

Whenever I write a review for this site it has become customary to assign a rating ranging from 0 to 5, with 5 being the best. I am giving 2X MDM a rating of 4.5, which is a Gold, Award. The software worked well and did exactly what it was supposed to do, but I think that the software could be improved by adding support for a greater variety of operating systems. Rating 4.5/5


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