Corporate BlackBerrys have long had the best remote management in the business. But the features, which included the ability to wipe the data from a lost handset within seconds, were only available to units tied to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
Research In Motion is now offering these protections, and then some, to consumer and small business BlackBerrys through BlackBerry Protect, a free service now in invitation-only beta. A couple of the features are very much like Find My iPhone, part of Apple’s paid Mobile Me service. If you log into the BlackBerry Protect Web portal, the locate device function will use the handset’s GPS function to pinpoint the device’s current location on a map. You can also send a message that will pop up on the screen of your BlackBerry. Other options include locking the device remotely and wiping it clean of all data, including information on memory cards. If your BlackBerry is merely mislaid and not really lost, generating a loud ring from the portal can help you find which sofa cushion it is hiding under.One of the most useful features of BlackBerry protect is wireless backup and restore. Options let you limit the impact on your wireless data plan by restricting backups to Wi-Fi only or to turn off automatic backups while roaming. Restore can be used both to replace lost or damaged data on a BlackBerry or to transfer your information to a new handset.
I had a bit of trouble getting the system to accept and create my required online BlackBerry ID. But once it was set up, all of the services worked flawlessly.
One annoyance with the BlackBerry protect beta is that installing the software requires Windows, Internet Explorer, and ActiveX. That might be an acceptable combination in the enterprise world, but not for consumers. This limitation should, however, disappear in the production version, which should be available for over-the-air download through BlackBerry App World.