What is endpoint management?

If you’ve heard the term ‘endpoint management’ and are wondering what it is, or you run an organization and are wondering whether you need an endpoint management solution and which one is best, you’re in the right place. We’ll explain all that in this article.

What is endpoint management?

Endpoint management is a term used mostly in large enterprises and organizations. An endpoint is any device connected to an organization’s network, including Macs, PCs, smartphones, and tablets. Endpoint management describes the process of enabling access to the network from these devices and managing their permissions once they are connected. With a good and flexible endpoint management system, for example, company employees can use both their company laptops and their own smartphones, tablets, or other personal devices to connect to the network, all governed by company access policies. There are a number of software solutions designed to allow organizations to do this.

Why is endpoint management important?

Every device that connects to a network — every endpoint — is a potential security threat. It could be used, deliberately or inadvertently, to spread malware, steal confidential data, or otherwise threaten the security of the network and the other users on it.

What does endpoint management do?

Endpoint management performs a number of functions:

  • Restricts access to the network to authorized devices and users only, whether they are connected to organization-owned routers or remotely via home Wi-Fi or other network connection.
  • Monitors and enforces security policies set by the organization.
  • Allows security administrators to manage access and policies from their own computers using a specialist application.

Endpoint management tools also allow companies to use zero-trust network access (ZTNA) instead of a VPN. Considered to be more secure, ZTNA is similar to using a VPN in that it provides a secure ‘tunnel’ through which devices access a network. However, whereas a VPN allows any device that successfully connects to directly access an organization’s network, ZTNA only allows specific apps and services to connect, even after the user has verified their credentials.

What are endpoint management policies?

Policies are the key to ensuring that only devices with permission can access the network, and when they do, use only the tools that the organization has agreed they should use. Access is usually managed through a combination of tools and methods, including single-sign-on usernames and passwords, two-step verification, and VPNs. Policies are usually assigned on a group-by-group basis, with individual users assigned to a group. Using groups means administrators don’t have to assign permissions on a user-by-user basis. And it means, for example, that companies can ensure that employees only have access to the tools they need to do their job.

Policies are also used to deliver software updates and allow self-installation of apps and services.

How do endpoint management tools work?

Each endpoint management tool is different, but the most popular ones allow for what’s known as ‘zero-touch’ deployment of a new Mac. This uses Apple Enterprise Management to allow for new MacBooks, for example, to be delivered directly to a user without going via the company’s IT admin first. When the user starts up the new MacBook, they are guided through the process of connecting to the organization’s network and downloading any additional software.

Endpoint management software also incorporates a ‘self-service’ app, which can be branded with the organization’s identity, that allows users to download and install the apps and configuration profiles they need, and those are permitted by the organization’s security policies.

Some endpoint management solutions also allow for the use of ZTNA instead of VPN and enable administrators to specify which apps and services users and groups can access once they are logged in to the network.

Why use endpoint management software?

The key reason for using endpoint management tools is security. Monitoring and managing access to an organization’s network is made much easier. The security benefits of endpoint management tools include:

  • Prevention or mitigation of security threats
  • Speedier response to security threats
  • Reduced cost of securing the network
  • Improved communication on security issues across the organization

However, there are other benefits besides security. These include:

  • Inventory management — keeping track of the number of software licenses in use and who is using them is much easier
  • Reduced involvement of IT staff in deployment of new systems and installation of software, and so reduced costs
  • Less time spent by users waiting for support staff to install software or updates
  • Easier to keep systems up to date

Endpoint management describes the process of managing access to a large network. More specifically, it’s a series of processes and policies designed to allow devices to connect to a network but only access the parts of the networks, apps, and services permitted by the organization. It usually involves a centralized software tool with client versions on users’ devices and allows a high degree of self-service by users, saving time and resources for IT admins. In addition to improving security, endpoint management can also help with inventory management, keeping applications updated, and reducing costs.