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    The evolution of Xperia Configurator Cloud to an intuitive and efficient online cloud portal solution for enterprise device fleet management

    To meet the needs of small to medium sized businesses, Sony brought its configuration tool, Configurator Cloud, to mobile, enabling configuration profiles to be remotely created, configured, and installed on Sony smartphones and tablets.

    Sony’s Xperia Configurator Cloud (XCC) enables easy and efficient mass-deployment and volume planning of an entire company’s mobile devices.

    Not stopping there, Sony set out to enhance the service further, introducing the capability to set a tree structure consisting of a super user (account owner) and associated sub-layers of IT Admins. This means that large enterprises or even mobile operators can create unique configurations per company, per site, per department or any other applicable profile.

    Bridging the Gap – Introducing the Second Generation of Xperia Configurator Cloud

    When Sony Mobile set out to make its second generation of its cloud tool one of the key requests was to be able to manage both activated (SIM inserted) and non-activated devices (no SIM). The key use case for being able to handle non-activated devices springs out of the need of for example retail stores like Phone House (SE) and Carphone Warehouse (UK) to be able to do bulk pre-configurations of devices before shipping them to customers. Through smart usage of NFC bump technology XCC not only provides OTA mass-deploy, but also quick and easy NFC configuration for non-activated devices. This paired with extended multi-language support and the availability of the XCC phone enabler via Google Play really sets XCC as a forerunner in cloud based device management. By pushing the envelope in feature introduction and by offering enterprise grade security measures to protect sensitive corporate data, XCC, as a free service from Sony Mobile, will allow SMBs, large enterprises, and mobile operators to provide their end-users with an attractive and non-intrusive user experience.

    From a CIO and CFO perspective, being a free service, is not a strong enough argument for choosing XCC. Equally important is the inherent efficiency mechanisms built in to the system, allowing IT Admins to be more productive at work through a good user experience as well as having a reliable system for managing both COPE, CYOD and BYOD type devices. Another important aspect is the fact that a cloud based configuration tool will also mean seamless upgrades of the tool and a 24/7 – 365 easy access from any location or terminal globally. With the tool IT Admins can easily prepare real-time data on device usage, deployment trends, and general reporting that will facilitate an improved OPEX control. The fact that all configuration files are securely stored in the cloud allows for easy transfer and life cycle management, all important aspects as employees will at times upgrade their device models.

    Not Entirely Unique but with Some Important Gems up Its Sleeve

    We all know of the growing success of the global EMM market. Analysts predict that the market will grow from today´s $3600M to a staggering $6850M by 2019, and this is not counting a potential growth into adjacent areas like Self-employed businesses or even Family orientated solutions. As the market trend points towards moving away from mandatory to loosely coupled solutions, when it comes to having a domain connected to your account, will clearly open up many more doors for these type of platforms going forward.

    Sony Mobile’s Xperia Configurator Cloud rather complements than competes with traditional EMM solutions and is a conscious result of direct customer requests. In contrast XCC has been designed from ground up to do one thing extremely well instead of spreading itself thin over the whole spectrum of device management. The focus is at all times to do device configuration, allowing the IT Admin to make full utilization of Sony Mobile’s Enterprise SDK, which contains not only standard Android APIs but also a range of Sony Xperia specific device policies that can be set on all Xperia devices that has the associated XCC phone enabler installed.

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    XCC can be deployed rapidly, without any need for hardware or special training, so that IT Admin can onboard new end users and make them productive in a secure manner quickly and effectively. Policies can be established in logical, wizard-based flows, and apps and content can be distributed to users in just a few clicks.

    After completing the secure account creation, IT Admins will find themselves on the Account overview landing page (image above), providing the user with a snapshot of last added or edited end-users, on boarding statistics to be able to do effective deployment management, along with device and application information. From here the IT Admin has an easy access to all stored configuration files and the ability to create new configurations just by clicking new and follow the step-by-step creation process that will take the IT Admin through all relevant and available settings.

    Below is a screenshot illustrating some of the key settings available through the tool.

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    A key characteristic of XCC, compared to similar tools available on the market, is the ability to have multiple administrators, something that is really important if the organizations is for example present on multiple sites or have international presence in several countries where local differences can be adjusted for in the device configurations. The tool is actually granular enough to be able to provide customized configurations per device / individual, a common use case would be that individual end-users may have unique settings based from the more generic company wide configuration, such as access to certain applications or the ability for a home office profile.

    Available settings:

    Screenlock passwords and requirements
    Policies; e.g. network and roaming restrictions, adding black and white lists for applications, as well as block / un-block certain settings in the device
    Wi-Fi
    VPN
    Email & EAS
    SSO – Single sign on
    Certificates for Wi-Fi, VPN and Applications
    Application installation
    Desktop shortcuts

    Once a new configuration has been created or a new user has been added the XCC has a smooth and secure on boarding experience. A multi-language supported email is created and sent off to the device owner containing necessary deployment instructions. After end-user acceptance and installation complete the XCC tool will receive an automatic notification of a successful deployment. From the illustration below you will see the flow of events and the actions needed in each step, for more details on the subject we refer to the XCC User Manual that can be accessed via the Sony Mobile Xperia in Business website.

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    Enterprise Grade Platform – a 360° View on Security

    Security for mobile devices, applications and content is a paramount concern in an enterprise mobility management strategy. Modern enterprises will view cloud identity and security initiatives as critical business accelerators, rather than additional activities to meet compliance mandates.

    Whether using a corporate-owned or employee-owned device, employees access corporate data, email and more from their mobile devices. These user actions require you to implement a mobile strategy with strong security policies. Security is at the core of the Xperia Configurator Cloud platform. Several steps has been taken to ensure your enterprise mobility deployment is secure and corporate information is protected with end-to-end security extending to users, devices, applications, content, data, email and networks. XCC is running on the most prominent web servers available paired with added smart security features all the way from the time of account registration to your day-to-day management of the service. We have added email verification schemes to ensure domain ownership and end-user sign off approval given the IT Admin the tools needed to verify end-user authenticity.

    Furthermore, all standard means of secure communication is an integral part of our portal – secure client/server communication using HTTPS protocol and Google Client Messaging for secure notifications on all our XCC eligible device models. Through our infrastructure partner Amazon we offer secure data storage on their cloud platform, topped with full Denial of Service and trusted methods for secure separation of company data.

    An important security concern is the handling of on boarding a device. Not only the platform needs to be safe, but the whole communication flow between the cloud platform and the end-user device, as well as the actual end-user approval process.

    As can be seen in the flow chart the registration message is sent to the XiB Configurator over https. From this point onwards authentication of the channel is done using a shared key (API key) between the device and XiB Configurator.

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    The data sent is the following:

    Work email address (needs to match the domain of the admin)
    Device info, i.e. list of supported configuration API.
    Device name, e.g. “Xperia Z5”
    Security PIN (used to verify that the user really is who he or she claims to be)
    GCM registration ID (used to send GCM messages to the device)
    IMEI
    Approve/cancel approval

    In this way XCC helps organizations that want to harness the power of mobility and transform their business dramatically with a cloud first approach and deliver it with a layered security all the way from the cloud platform to the device.

    Trend Spotting in Cloud Device Management – the Road Ahead

    Being a free tool Xperia Configurator Cloud does not represent a replacement for traditional Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) type solutions, with the objective of being a comprehensive platform for all things IT inside the corporate domain. But recent developments with Google’s Android for Work (AfW) initiative may play well with future iterations of both Sony Mobile’s XCC tool as well as with traditional EMM systems, but also for more consumerized solutions, adding value all the way from end-users to carrier type solutions, e.g. improving the instore experience. Prosumers are already today exploring means of managing private communications and device management, and not only for mobile, but actually capturing a whole plethora of devices, such as TVs, cars, kids’ phones, tablets and wearables.

    Don’t put all eggs in one basket. Clouds tend to be big, complicated platforms. The more you build on any platform, the more you become dependent on its unique features – and in the case of a public cloud, the more you’re locking yourself into a platform owned and operated by someone else. So you may want to see Sony Mobile’s Xperia Configurator Cloud as a good complement in your overall multi-cloud platform mix going forward. As IoT (Internet of Things) linger around the corner it is also important to build a cloud device management platform strategy that both is future proof and is able to clearly exist and cope with a next generation mixed device fleet organization.

    Getting Started and Prerequisites

    Sony Mobile’s Xperia Configurator Cloud platform is accessible here.

    The user interface of Xperia Configurator Cloud is accessible from most internet browsers using the latest versions. The tool works with Xperia devices with an activated Xperia Configurator Cloud account. After submitting the information by clicking Sign up, you will receive an email with a link to activate your Xperia Configurator Cloud account. By clicking the link you will be directed to an Account activation page. On the Account activation page, submit your password and click Activate. This will verify your email address and direct you to the Login page, where you can now login to your account. When the sign up process has been finalized you will be able to tailor your account to fit your organizations needs in terms of number of sub users and administrators, number of configuration types etc.

    You are now ready to create your first device configuration and if you need more information you can download the Xperia Configurator Cloud User Manual here.

    Supported devices and general prerequisites:

    With the roll out of Xperia Configurator Cloud – Second generation the tool will either natively or through downloading of the XCC phone enabler support all Xperia Z family devices. The first generation of XCC only supported the recently released Z5 product family (Xperia™ Z5 Dual; Xperia™ Z5; Xperia™ Z5 Compact; Xperia™ Z5 Premium; Xperia™ Z5 Premium Dual), but with this new iteration all premium line and most value line devices can be configured via XCC.

    For complete listing of device compliance please visit the site.

     

     

     

    Anthony Devenish

    PR Manager

    Wearables, software and digital PR geek. Northerner (trying not to be a hipster) in London.