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Apu Pavithran, Hexnode: “device management is a quintessential aspect of every industry”

With hundreds of devices on hand, organizations worry about governing and securing them all effectively. One of the leading solutions to that problem is device management.

The endpoint management approach centralizes control over all devices so that the organization can manage, update, and monitor them from one place. Furthermore, by providing full visibility of all access points, endpoint management allows to effectively prevent breaches.

Apu Pavithran, the founder and CEO of Hexnode, talked to us about their award-winning Unified Endpoint Management platform, which has been utilized by companies worldwide.

Hexnode has grown tremendously since 2013 and is now trusted by many well-known companies worldwide. How did it all begin?

A couple of my friends and I had multiple coffee meetings and would toy around with the idea of starting something on our own. Eventually, we decided it was time. So, one by one, we all quit our jobs to follow our dream.

We finally settled on starting a B2B venture, and the enterprise mobility domain was the best fit. It was the best time because enterprises were beginning the slow transition to the cloud due to the wide adoption of mobile devices. It was the beginning of “anywhere enterprise” culture.

We had many insights into what the future might be like and we were able to use that to our advantage. Back in 2013, mobile device management or an endpoint management solution was something that only big enterprises sought to implement, and the mobile device management vendors in the market were mainly tech giants like VMware, IBM, etc.

Our vision was to create a straightforward interface – a solution that was not intimidating for a one-person IT team and that avoided huge invoices. We started by focusing on small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and we gained enough trust and a significant user base to now have customers from the top Fortune 100s.

Hexnode’s Unified Endpoint Management platform has received positive feedback as well as multiple awards. Can you tell us more about this service?

Hexnode UEM is the flagship product of our company - Mitsogo Inc. This is a product for the IT teams at companies, and it helps them monitor and manage every corporate device that is deployed to employees. Now, managing a handful of devices is easy, but that is not the case for an enterprise with thousands of devices. To secure corporate data, the IT team has to watch the devices closely; who is using them, where are they located, etc. Without a solution like a UEM, it is literally impossible to track these things. This is not a simple task and it comes with a lot of responsibility, especially in a time where data security is facing high-risk challenges.

This is how the Hexnode UEM works. Firstly, all the devices are added to Hexnode – which we call “enrolling the devices.” Then, the IT team can group the devices based on departments or use cases and decide what restrictions, configurations, and applications will be assigned to each device (a “policy”). For example, the Marketing team policy and Sales team policy could be different because not all devices have the same restrictions in most companies.

After that, the IT team will be able to constantly monitor these devices from the Hexnode portal to see if any devices are behaving differently than they were supposed to. For example, the devices may have a blacklisted application, be used in a restricted location, have been inactive for a long time, or have a battery level below the specified limit.

Your annual event HexCon has just concluded. What were the highlights of this year?

HexCon21 was a grand success! We set a record with 100+ speakers and 2500+ attendees. The three-day event focused on cybersecurity and its related fields, remote work, and other motivational sessions. We had many reputable speakers like Nick Vujicic, Duncan McAlynn, Abbas Kudrati, Matthew Rosenquist, Mike Robbins, and Chuck Brooks.

We believe we were able to send a strong message about the importance of cybersecurity to the world with the help of experts from the field. There were also some feature announcements for our customers and partners.

Did the pandemic present any new challenges to Hexnode? Was there a need to adapt your services as a result of the global events?

The pandemic was an uncertain phase, and most of our customers shifted to remote work or hybrid work models like the rest of the world. Businesses had no idea how to handle this situation, and we saw a huge hike in UEM requirements because companies wanted to secure devices before sending them to home environments with no secure Wi-Fi or VPN. IT teams needed to monitor these devices scattered all across the world. So, the adoption and implementation of enterprise security solutions, which should have taken a six to eight-month period, happened in one or two months.

The pandemic was certainly an unforeseen circumstance, but our team handled it efficiently. During the lockdown phase, the critical teams were provided with the necessary equipment for uninterrupted functioning. Technical support continued and was available to customers 24/5. We also rolled out new features to adapt to customers’ situations and help ease their work.

What security threats does a faulty device management system pose? What’s the worst that can happen when a device is compromised?

In the current world, a device management solution is expected to manage every facet of asset management. It is important for organizations to analyze their needs and requirements and choose the right solution. Security is expensive. If you go for an incompetent solution to manage the very devices that hold your enterprise’s data, it’s like digging your own grave. There are many ways a device can be compromised. Some basic ones are:

  • Password breach – where a device is hacked because of a weak password or no password at all
  • Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network from a device that doesn’t have corporate Wi-Fi configuration set up
  • Browsing or visiting bad websites where malware lurks
  • Installing unverified applications
  • Clicking on a phishing email

A corporate data breach is a severe issue. A device or data in the wrong hands could cause unimaginable troubles for the organization and its customers, partners, stakeholders. Once an enterprise has fallen victim to an attack, it's very hard to get back up and regain trust. All it takes is a leaked password to put the whole country on pause. Look at the attack on Uber – 57 million account details were leaked. What if the “bad guys” have your bank details, your phone number, your email, and pictures? Now, imagine if that happened to a company. A lot of lives are at stake then.

While organizations rush to secure their workloads using various cybersecurity measures, device management and protection often get overlooked. Why do you think that is the case?

It’s mainly because people still think that all threats come from the outside. But that is not the case most of the time. It could be a careless stroke of a button or clicking on a link without thinking that will wreak havoc. Now, the large enterprises do spend a lot on securing their data and devices, and they will have a big team to handle all that because they have a lot to lose. Then, there are these small to medium businesses that think they are safe just because they are not big enough to attract attention. Stats show that around 60% of SMBs that were attacked had to shut down their business within six months. The reason is that most of them have not implemented even the basic security measures. They do not have a proper backup. Organizations who are “cyber aware” do everything they can to protect their data – and device management is a part of that.

In your opinion, which industries should be especially concerned with their device management?

Honestly, in the current climate, device management is a quintessential aspect of every industry. Post-pandemic, many organizations shifted to a hybrid model of work. This increases the need for a well-grounded device management system. Moreover, it helps the IT admins ease their workload tremendously.

Endpoint management should be implemented in every company where people use computers, work on the internet, and save their data on the cloud. This is basically every industry in the book. The “bad guys” are not that picky; they will get their hands on everything they can, so data security should be a concern for every industry, company, and person.

Is endpoint management only relevant for big enterprises, or should small businesses implement this practice too?

A company with a handful of devices may be able to handle it without a UEM solution. But when the number of devices increases, they will realize that they can’t continue without a proper solution. The earlier they make the move to a UEM solution, the better. As mentioned earlier, big enterprises often have security measures making it harder for attackers. But the same attackers can get their hands on a hundred small or medium businesses with half the effort. So, what will they choose? The easy way, of course.

And finally, what’s next for Hexnode?

We have multiple products in the pipeline. Our latest SaaSOps product – “Hexnode Do” – is expected to roll out in the upcoming quarter.

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