What is Intune?

Applies to: Intune
This topic applies to Intune in both the Azure portal and the classic portal.

Intune is a cloud-based service in the enterprise mobility management (EMM) space that helps enable your workforce to be productive while keeping your corporate data protected. With Intune, you can:

  • Manage the mobile devices your workforce uses to access company data.
  • Manage the mobile apps your workforce uses.
  • Protect your company information by helping to control the way your workforce accesses and shares it.
  • Ensure devices and apps are compliant with company security requirements.

Common business problems that Intune helps solve

How does Intune work?

Intune is the component of Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) that manages mobile devices and apps. It integrates closely with other EMS components like Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for identity and access control and Azure Information Protection for data protection. When you use it with Office 365, you can enable your workforce to be productive on all their devices, while keeping your organization's information protected.

Image of Intune architecture

View a larger version of the Intune architecture diagram.

How you use the device and app management features of Intune and EMS data protection depends on the business problem you’re trying to solve. For example:

  • You’ll make strong use of device management if you're creating a pool of single-use devices to be shared by shift workers in a retail store.
  • You’ll lean on app management and data protection if you allow your workforce to use their personal devices to access corporate data (BYOD).
  • If you are issuing corporate phones to information workers, you’ll rely on all of the technologies.

Intune device management explained

Intune device management works by using the protocols or APIs that are available in the mobile operating systems. It includes tasks like:

  • Enrolling devices into management so your IT department has an inventory of devices that are accessing corporate services
  • Configuring devices to ensure they meet company security and health standards
  • Providing certificates and Wi-Fi/VPN profiles to access corporate services
  • Reporting on and measuring device compliance to corporate standards
  • Removing corporate data from managed devices

Sometimes, people think that access control to corporate data is a device management feature. We don’t think of it that way because it isn’t something that the mobile operating system provides. Rather, it’s something the identity provider delivers. In our case, the identity provider is Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), Microsoft’s identity and access management system.

Intune integrates with Azure AD to enable a broad set of access control scenarios. For example, you can require a mobile device to be compliant with corporate standards that you define in Intune before the device can access a corporate service like Exchange. Likewise, you can lock down the corporate service to a specific set of mobile apps. For example, you can lock down Exchange Online to only be accessed by Outlook or Outlook Mobile.

Intune app management explained

When we talk about app management, we are talking about:

  • Assigning mobile apps to employees
  • Configuring apps with standard settings that are used when the app runs
  • Controlling how corporate data is used and shared in mobile apps
  • Removing corporate data from mobile apps
  • Updating apps
  • Reporting on mobile app inventory
  • Tracking mobile app usage

We have seen the term mobile app management (MAM) used to mean any one of those things individually or to mean specific combinations. In particular, it’s common for folks to conflate the concept of app configuration with the concept of securing corporate data within mobile apps. That’s because some mobile apps expose settings that allow their data security features to be configured.

When we talk about app configuration and Intune, we are referring specifically to technologies like managed app configuration on iOS.

When you use Intune with the other services in EMS, you can provide your organization mobile app security over and above what is provided by the mobile operating system and the mobile apps themselves through app configuration. An app that is managed with EMS has access to a broader set of mobile app and data protections that includes:

Image that shows the levels of app management data security

Intune app security

Providing app security is a part of app management, and in Intune, when we talk about mobile app security, we mean:

  • Keeping personal information isolated from corporate IT awareness
  • Restricting the actions users can take with corporate information such as copy, cut/paste, save, and view
  • Removing corporate data from mobile apps, also known as selective wipe or corporate wipe

One way that Intune provides mobile app security is through its app protection policy feature. App protection policy uses Azure AD identity to isolate corporate data from personal data. Data that is accessed using a corporate credential will be given additional corporate protections.

For example, when a user logs on to her device with her corporate credentials, her corporate identity allows her access to data that is denied to her personal identity. As that corporate data is used, app protection policies control how it is saved and shared. Those same protections are not applied to data that is accessed when the user logs on to her device with her personal identity. In this way, IT has control of corporate data while the end user maintains control and privacy over personal data.

EMM with and without device enrollment

Most enterprise mobility management solutions support basic mobile device and mobile app technologies. These are usually tied to the device being enrolled in your organization’s mobile device management (MDM) solution. Intune supports these scenarios and additionally supports many “without enrollment” scenarios.

Organizations differ to the extent they will adopt “without enrollment” scenarios. Some organizations standardize on it. Some allow it for companion devices such as a personal tablet. Others don’t support it at all. Even in this last case, where an organization requires all employee devices to be enrolled in MDM, they typically support "without enrollment" scenarios for contractors, vendors, and for other devices that have a specific exemption.

You can even use Intune’s “without-enrollment” technology on enrolled devices. For example, a device enrolled in MDM may have "open-in" protections provided by the mobile operating system. "Open-in" protection is an iOS feature that restricts you from opening a document from one app, like Outlook, into another app, like Word, unless both apps are managed by the MDM provider. In addition, IT may apply the app protection policy to EMS-managed mobile apps to control save-as or to provide multi-factor authentication.

Whatever your organization’s position on enrolled and unenrolled mobile devices and apps, Intune, as a part of EMS, has tools that will help increase your workforce productivity while protecting your corporate data.

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