Top 5 BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 Features

Research In Motion's Blackberry is still the dominant mobile device in the enterprise, despite increasingly fierce competition from Apple's iPhone and Android-based mobile devices, with Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 also entering the fray.

The reason for RIM's hegemony largely comes down to three letters: BES -- the Blackberry Enterprise Server. Currently at version 5.0.2 (or BES 5.0 Service Pack 2), RIM's BES mobile management software takes care of mobile security, connects BlackBerrys to corporate messaging platforms, handles device updates and policies settings, performs over-the-air device backup and synchronization, and generally makes life easier for BlackBerry administrators and users.

Why has BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 made the BlackBerry platform so successful? By way of illustration here are the top 5 BES features that RIM has recently introduced or which are expected imminently:

1. Tight control of corporate data on employee owned devices

The concept of allowing employees to use their own mobile devices to access enterprise resources is no longer new, and many organizations have decided that rather than fighting the idea they should embrace it and take advantage of the potential cost savings that it brings.

This has been made much easier in BES 5.0 SP2 thanks to a feature that allows IT administrators to reach in to an employee's (or former employee's) device remotely to remove any corporate data from the device. This happens as if it was an enterprise-owned device, without interfering with the user's own information or mobile apps. The feature makes it practical for enterprises to maintain control of their own data while respecting the fact that the device itself is not corporate property.

2. A dedicated individual-liable device policy

Continuing with the theme of allowing employees to buy their own mobile devices and use them for work purposes, BES now has a dedicated individual-liable device policy. It prevents administrators from breaking a BlackBerry's personal use capabilities when they put restrictions on the device's corporate use.

Essentially, it allows an administrator to lock the device out completely as far as corporate use is concerned, without interfering with the device's ability to make calls (using the employee's personal voice plan) and access their personal email accounts and calendar. It also helps maintain a separation between work and personal use by preventing users from accessing "corporate" data such as tasks, contacts and calendar entries from social networking applications.

3. Self-service mobile security

Anyone who is familiar with corporate IT helpdesk operations knows that password reset requests and other simple security-related activities can take up a huge percentage of helpdesk employees' time and absorb a large part of the operating budget. And no user likes making the "call of shame" to the helpdesk to admit that they have forgotten their password or lost their mobile device.

That's why BES's self-service mobile security options are a benefit to both administrators and end users. After accessing the BlackBerry Web Desktop Manager, employees can reset their device password, lock their device, or even remotely wipe the device and disable it if gets left in the back of a cab or stolen. These self-service security features can be disabled by IT administrators, but when enabled they have the potential to significantly reduce the costs of dealing with these sorts of security issues.

4. Over-the-air software upgrades

Device software upgrades can be time consuming and costly for IT staff -- and ensuring that the right people are running the right software to run particular applications can be a nightmare -- just ask anyone responsible for managing iPhones in a corporate environment.

BES 5.0 introduced a feature that gives IT administrators the ability to check for software updates though BES (rather than from RIM's or different carrier's sites) and to have them sent out over the air to individual devices at an appropriate time when the users are unlikely to be using them. Users can also be given the option to schedule an update for their device within a given time window, with the update taking place automatically if it has not been initiated by the user within that window.

5. Compatibility with Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization system and more

Information coming out of RIM suggests that BES 5.0 SP3 will be released in the coming weeks, although no release date has yet been confirmed. The emphasis of this release will be ensuring that the package remains compatible with current technologies and systems. BES 5.0 SP3 is slated to add support for: Microsoft's Hyper-V 2008 R2 platform; Microsoft Office 2010 file attachments in messages; Office Communications Server 2007 R2; and Lync Server 2010 instant messaging servers.

There will likely also be new features intended to help administrators deal with employee-owned devices. These will include making it possible to keep work content separate from personal content on a BlackBerry device (a feature that was promised when SP2 was released) and disabling the ability to forward work content using personal communication channels.


RIM, Research In Motion, BES, BES 5.0, BlackBerry Enterprise Server