IT security firm Sophos has announced a new version of its mobile device management solution, offering protection for Apple, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices.

Sophos Mobile Control 2.0 allows all of these devices to be monitored and controlled from a single web-based console. IT administrators can execute consistent policies across the board, such as blocking unencrypted devices or blacklisting specific applications.

The new 'compliance enforcement' feature also allows administrators to identify any non-compliant devices and automatically disable access to corporate data. For devices that are lost or stolen, remote device locking and wiping capabilities are also available. Any policy violations are flagged up on the administrator's dashboard, together with recommended actions.

Mobile Control 2.0 also offers access to Sophos' Enterprise App Store, which enables administrators to deploy company-specific apps that are not published in the Apple App Store or the Google Market. Existing apps can be specially configured or recommend for download by administrators.

"We understand that businesses are increasingly mobile and their workforce is adding an extra layer of complexity," said Matthias Pankert, vice president of Product Management, Mobile Data Protection, Sophos. "With the enhancements within Sophos Mobile Control, we are aiming to streamline and simplify device and data protection, while giving employees the flexibility they want, and IT departments the protection they need."

Sophos has stolen a march on BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM), whose mobile management platform Mobile Fusion is in limited beta testing and due to ship in late March 2012. Fusion is a software platform for managing Android and iOS phones and tablets, as well as BlackBerry smartphones and RIM's PlayBook tablet. It can handle security, policy definition and enforcement, app management and other tasks required to oversee mobile devices in an enterprise.

Meanwhile, a study by Gartner published in July identified Zenprise, Mobile Active Defense and MobileIron as among the best mobile device management platforms, scoring highest overall in various use cases. Good Technology was found to be the best single email-centric solution for secure enterprise mobile email.

Sophos highlighted separate research by Gartner, which forecasts that at least 50 percent of enterprise email users will rely primarily on a browser, tablet or mobile client, instead of a desktop client, by 2016. Meanwhile, around 45% of UK firms allow employees to use their own devices for business purposes, according to a study released last month by Citrix.

A Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) strategy can help businesses achieve significant cost savings. However, the proliferation of employee-owned devices is creating headaches for businesses and their IT staff, who are now under pressure to enable the use of consumer devices and develop new mobile applications for business use, while maintaining consistent policies and device compliance across all employees.

The Citrix report found that 57% of UK firms have no policies, procedures or IT systems in place to manage the use of personal devices for business, and only half are aware of all the devices their staff are using for business purposes.

"Enabling support, monitoring and managing remote and mobile workers is now a de facto requirement for IT to ensure highly productive and effective businesses," said Elizabeth Cholawsky, vice president and general manager of IT Services for Citrix.