HP's BYOD service protects mobile devices and PCs

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Hewlett-Packard wants to make BYOD easier for small businesses through a new cloud-based service to manage and protect mobile devices and PCs.

The company’s Web-based Touchpoint Manager service, launched Monday, can remotely check the health of smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. It can also issue alerts and remotely lock or wipe data from devices in case of theft.

The service is for businesses with up to 500 employees that need a basic bring-your-own-device management plan at an affordable price, said Michael Park, vice president and general manager of Commercial Mobility, Printer and Personal Systems at HP.

For US$2 a month, a starter plan provides a list of users and devices, tracks devices on a map, and monitors hard-disk health and battery life of remote devices. For $10, users get additional features like camera management and the ability find lost devices, reset passwords remotely and wipe data. Under both plans, system administrators can track and issue alerts in case devices are close to expiration or security software is out of date.

Device management isn’t a new field and that considering HP has been selling PCs and tablets for years now, it’s taken a while for the company to release such a cohesive offering. HP worked on the product for one-and-a-half years and though it may be late, it wanted to offer BYOD tools that are “stable” and “radically” easy to use, Park said.

HP is announcing the service just a few months after IBM and Apple announced an “exclusive” deal in which iPhones and iPads would be sold to enterprises backed by IBM’s device management, cloud and analytics services. Locking corporate environments into one OS can be an expensive proposition, and HP wanted to offer a service that’s device and OS agnostic, Park said.

Touchpoint Manager supports mobile devices and PCs running Android, iOS and Windows. It doesn’t support Mac laptops or BlackBerry devices. It also won’t provide management and security for thin clients that run applications directly off servers.

Central to the service is a Web-based dashboard that has sortable lists of users, devices and registrations. Alerts will show up in case a device is low on battery life or hard drive, or if a warranty is expiring.

“You can be up and running in under five minutes. It’s very quick and easy,” said Lorri Peterson, senior director of software product management at HP’s business process services unit.

A map shows where device are located. If a device is stolen, action can be taken to lock it and wipe data. The service can also lock a device and restrict access to data if a smartphone or tablet is taken outside a particular location, which is especially important in hospitals, for instance, which typically have tight restrictions on data access and portability.

For now the service lacks data backup and geofencing, but those features could be added in the future, Peterson said.

HP is also tailoring its business laptops with exclusive features to take advantage of the service. Its Elitebook business laptops coming later this year will have GPS-like technology so laptops can be tracked even when they are turned off. The feature isn’t available on current Elitebooks.

Touchpoint Manager is available in the U.S., U.K., Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Ireland and Japan. It will be available in more countries and languages next year.

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