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Evaluate Intune alternatives for mobility management

Intune stands out in the EMM market in part due to its incumbency as a PC management platform. IT must evaluate Intune compared to other EMM and UEM platforms' mobility controls.

Many organizations deploy Microsoft Intune to manage all their endpoints, including PCs and mobile devices, but Intune isn't always the best fit.

Intune is one of the most popular unified endpoint management (UEM) tools on the market, partially due to organizations' history with the previous Microsoft PC and Windows server management tool, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). Intune has an incumbency advantage over Intune alternatives for many organizations, but IT departments should evaluate how Intune stacks up to other UEM tools.

Evaluating Intune alternatives

Traditional EMM suites other than Intune are generally more granular and have more options for mobility management controls compared to Intune. These traditional EMM products from BlackBerry, Citrix, MobileIron, VMWare and other vendors were all created for extensive management of Android and iOS devices. They have far deeper roots into the various functions of the OSes that IT can manage.

Intune can't natively perform the following functions, while other Intune alternatives can:

  • Support non-Outlook accounts on OS-native email apps
  • Native Mobile Threat Defense
  • Turn off all device location tracking on personal devices
  • Allow editing of documents and email attachments
  • Third-party app integration

In the past few years, nearly all the traditional EMM vendors have added UEM capabilities to enable PC management extensions. This expansion to different device management is moving beyond traditional endpoints to IoT devices as well. An EMM tool's ability to manage mobile devices doesn't automatically equate to effective PC management, however. Some platforms have compatibility issues with the inclusion of PCs in management suites that were originally built for Android and iOS instead of Windows.

History and development of Intune

Intune benefits from being somewhat of a successor to SCCM and from Microsoft's reputation as the best purveyor of Windows management tools. Microsoft's deep understanding of Windows management allowed it to create Intune primarily as a PC management vehicle, but it also includes extensions that allow Intune to manage Android and iOS devices.

While Intune does benefit from being somewhat of a successor to SCCM, it also benefits from Microsoft's reputation as the best purveyor of Windows management tools in the market.

Early on, Intune was not a great management tool for mobile devices because it had significantly fewer features for mobile devices than typical Intune alternatives. Over the past few years, however, Microsoft has expanded Intune's mobile management features and even allows specialized plugins such as the Samsung Knox extensions.

Microsoft Intune appeals to organizations that have a history with Intune PC management and are interested in converging device management into a single UEM platform. Intune integrates very well with other Microsoft tools such as Active Directory on-prem, the Azure cloud and Office 365. Additionally, Intune is often bundled with other Microsoft services and offerings at an attractive price point.

Deciding between Intune and Intune alternatives for UEM

Whether Intune is the right UEM choice for an organization will depend on several factors. IT departments should ask themselves these questions to determine if Intune is a good fit or if an alternative UEM platform is the better option.

Is the primary device management need for Windows, or for Android and iOS?

If an organization's device management needs are primarily for Windows devices with a smaller mobile footprint, then Intune will probably be an adequate platform to meet its needs. If the organization is focused more on the needs of managing mobile devices, then a more traditional mobile-derived UEM tool will likely be a better fit. The alternative UEM options will likely have adequate Windows management capabilities but superior mobile management features to Intune.

Does the organization need to deploy a UEM suite on-premises or in the cloud?

While all UEM the vendors have migrated to cloud-based offerings over the past few years, many organizations are still using on-premises tools. For organizations, shifting to a cloud-based tool for UEM carries its own cost-benefit analysis. This type of migration could also be the right time for organizations to decide if they should move to another vendor's product. Moving to a cloud-based tool is the best way to roll out a UEM platform, whether it's Intune or another UEM tool, as the vendors automatically push out new features and functions, unlike on-premises platforms that may require continuous updates to add features.

IT departments may not want to consolidate their tools to a single management platform if they already have an existing EMM platforms such as those from BlackBerry, Citrix, VMware, IBM or MobileIron.

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