Free MDM is a myth, here's why

David Ruddock
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Free MDM is a myth, here's why

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and there’s no such thing as free MDM (Mobile Device Management) when it comes to managing your POS systems, self service kiosks, digital signage, and tablets. Here are five things you should consider before you take the plunge with any free way to manage your business’s revenue-generating systems.

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Your MDM is free, but your time is not

As a device management platform that offers free access, we know something everyone should about "free" stuff: Any time you or your team spend using, learning, or configuring free software is time not spent on something else. No "free" solution is worth giving up your sanity to manage POS systems, digital signage, or touch screen kiosks.

The longer you spend enrolling, provisioning, and deploying systems using your "free" MDM, the less time customers spend using the systems you've been tasked to get out in the field. Troubleshooting, tweaking, and constantly making minute changes to your default deployment to work around issues with your MDM will become so normal that you'll stop noticing.

No free tool is worth your productivity, let alone your sanity. With Esper, we offer a clean, modern console with a human-first interface designed to be used by anyone! Enrolling a device in Esper is simple, and you can get started right now (if, for example, your time is too valuable to finish reading this article).

Free MDM will never scale

Your "free" MDM probably doesn't even let you meaningful update your devices, at least not with any kind of sophistication. One of the key challenges to managing modern Android devices is consistent and reliable application deployment and configuration management.

Without the proper tools, deploying the correct APK (application) file to your devices in the field can quickly become a major organizational challenge. When your device app could be updated weekly or even daily (something your development team should aspire to!), you need to be absolutely certain that those apps are arriving and installing on the devices your MDM says they are.

With most MDMs, there is simply nothing you can do to make sure an application update actually gets to a device. You press a button, you sit back, and you wait. You can verify the installation was successful using a remote viewer tool (or, if the devices are in the room with you, by actually checking), but this is yet another time-intensive task your MDM should be alleviating, not aggravating.

With Esper, our app deployment pipelines and robust cloud content management ensure you have control over deployment of every version (and subversion) of your application to devices in the field. And more importantly, in the event of breakage after an update, you need to be able to get those devices back in their last known working state. With Esper, it's easy: simply redeploy the last known working configuration of your app and watch in real time as it reaches every device in your fleet.

Granularity is is tremendously important for updates, too, and we know it! You can define groups and subgroups in the Esper console to ensure you and your team are deploying to the right set of devices every time. No more guesswork.

Free MDM lacks support

We all know how "free" product support goes, but with an MDM, you're really putting your business on the line if you run into an issue you can't self-serve a fix on. MDM solutions are designed to appeal to the masses, not to your specific use case, device type, and app experience.

Getting any kind of support for an unusual or "unsupported" use case is going to be folly at the free tier, but what does that tell you about how your MDM treats customers who actually pay them? It should probably tell you a lot!

We aren't in the business of making unrealistic promises, but at Esper, we understand your basic device management experience is something you'll rely on every single day to manage your kiosks, POS systems, digital signage, and line busting tablets. Most MDMs don't even know what a POS system is, let alone that managing it introduces specific requirements not found when handling something like a corporate CYOD or BYOD smartphone. You can check out our support page here.

What does free MDM do with your data?

How much sensitive data is routed through your POS systems? Transaction records, customer information, and usage metrics may all come through your POS or kiosk system, and that data is yours! With a traditional MDM, your built-in data protections may be more limited than you expect.

But data on devices is vulnerable at multiple points, and it's worth protecting at all of them. Traditional MDM solutions aren't designed to lock down sensitive systems like mPOS or self ordering kiosks in restaurants. If you want true peace of mind with your POS and kiosk security, read five ways you can keep your POS systems and kiosks secure.

Free MDM is not designed for business or enterprise

You may have noticed a running theme in this post: Free MDM solutions aren't built for business! Whether you're trying to manage POS systems for a quick service restaurant (QSR), signage like digital menu boards, a consumer device like smart exercise equipment, a tablet for collecting clinical trial data, or self ordering kiosks for retail, you need to know one thing: Traditional MDM, free or not, is going to let you down.

Come talk to us at Esper. We work with major players in the QSR, POS, kiosk, and hospitality spaces, including brands like Taco Bell, Xenial, NCR, BetterSpace, Ordermark, and Lenovo. For more, check out our restaurants solution page.

Try the Esper MDM Platform Free for 30 Days


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David Ruddock
David Ruddock

David Ruddock was the Editor in Chief at Esper. He's been using Android for well over a decade — his first smartphone was the Google Nexus One. In his 11 years as a technology journalist, David worked with major brands like Google, Samsung, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Verizon, and Amazon, reviewed hundreds of products, and broken dozens of exclusive stories.