InfoWorld review: BlackBerry Enterprise Server, express or deluxe?

Extensive BlackBerry Enterprise Server will be indispensable to some, but free BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is good enough for most

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Although previous versions of BlackBerry Enterprise Server had groups, they're more flexible in BES and BES Express 5.0.1. For instance, groups can belong to other groups (nesting or child), which helps IT managers deal with complicated corporate structures. Groups, like individual users, can be assigned to roles, IT policies, and software configurations, and they'll inherit the roles, policies, and configuration from their parent groups. You'll need to construct group hierarchies carefully, because there's no easy way to manage exceptions for a specific user.

Both BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express 5.0.1 provide new administration roles that can be used to spread out IT management tasks more efficiently. For example, you could assign one person to serve as senior help desk administrator and others to administer a particular server or group of users.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Keep up with the latest developments in BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, and other mobile computing technologies in Galen Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog. ]

Further, both editions turn over a lot of control to users -- self-service that can reduce the work for help desk staff. The Web Desktop Manager (subject to policies) allows users to activate and configure their smartphone settings, back up and restore data residing on the phone, and install applications.

BlackBerry Enterprise Server vs. BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express
BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express features more than 35 controls and policies, including remotely wiping a lost smartphone and enforcing password policies. I had no trouble creating policies to lock out Bluetooth, enable the still camera, and allow software loading with the device tethered to a PC. Using the tabbed interface, you pick the rule and whether the feature is enabled or disabled. Typically, both products start with most device features enabled, so you only need to create a rule when restricting a particular capability.

Most organizations will be satisfied with the basic controls in BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, while those who need lots of fine-tuning will find it in BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Where BES Express can either allow or prohibit the use of a feature (MMS, SMS, Bluetooth, camera, media card, modem, Wi-Fi, USB/serial, internal network connections, and so on), BlackBerry Enterprise Server can control exactly how the feature is used. For example, BES lets you control whether Bluetooth can connect to BlackBerry Desktop, be used for device discovery or dial-up networking, exchange contacts, or transfer files. You can set a minimum encryption level for Bluetooth connections and even ensure that the LED connection light flashes whenever the BlackBerry is connected to a Bluetooth device.

The one policy area where BES Express matches BES is application control. In both editions, "listed" applications (such as the BlackBerry Java applications you choose to include in your company's repository) can be made optional or mandatory, or they can be prohibited based on a user's permissions. Similarly, "unlisted" applications can be allowed or blocked; if allowed, these applications can be prevented from using device storage or limited in the types of connections they can establish.

The new Web-based BlackBerry Administration Service (above) makes it easy to assign IT policies and software configurations to users. With the Web Desktop Manager (below), admins can let users configure their phones, install applications, and handle backups and restores.
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