What is Intune?

6 min to read Contributors

Intune is a cloud-based enterprise mobility management (EMM) service 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.

Intune integrates closely with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for identity and access control, and Azure Rights Management (Azure RMS) for data protection. It is the management arm of Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), while Office 365 is the productivity arm of Microsoft’s mobility solution.

Together, Office 365 and EMS enable your workforce to be productive on all of their devices while keeping your organization's information protected. Office 365 with EMS is a complete, integrated suite for enterprise mobility inclusive of productivity, identity, access control, management, and data protection. It gives you an effective way to deploy and operate a mobility solution in your organization.

How does Intune work?

Intune provides mobile device management (MDM) and mobile app management (MAM). Intune’s MDM and MAM features then contribute to the EMS suite of data protection and compliance scenarios.

How you’ll use the MDM/MAM 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 MDM if you're creating a pool of single-use devices to be shared by shift workers in a retail store.
  • You’ll lean on MAM 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 heavily on all of the technologies.

Intune mobile device management (MDM) explained

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

  • Enrolling devices into management so IT 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 an MDM 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 as defined 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 mobile app management (MAM) explained

When we talk about MAM, we are talking about the set of things our solutions enable IT Pros to do with mobile apps, such as:

  • Publishing mobile apps to employees
  • Configuring apps
  • Controlling how corporate data is used and shared in mobile apps
  • Removing corporate data from mobile apps
  • Updating mobile apps
  • Reporting on mobile app inventory
  • Tracking mobile app usage

We have seen the term 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 (that is, using technologies like managed app configuration on iOS) 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.

That, in combination with operating system features for protecting data (for example, MDM features such as Windows Information Protection on Windows 10), gives a lot of protection to data on mobile devices.

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 mobile app security

Providing app security is a part of MAM, 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.

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, Intune, along with other EMS technologies, controls 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 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, these organizations 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. 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.

Common business problems that Intune helps solve

The following list of business problems link to more detailed information about the solutions we can provide. Only the last item requires MDM enrollment as part of the solution:

Next steps

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