The release of the Apple iPad 3 has once again raised the question of whether the enterprise is ready to incorporate these devices into their networks. We expect to see tablet sales alone increase by 250% in 2012, primarily iPads, which workers are connecting to corporate email and other network services at unprecedented rates.
Given the increasing proliferation of mobile devices entering the enterprise, mobile security and device management are becoming a greater priority for businesses. Over the last few years, a large number of Mobile Device Management solutions have rushed in, being designed and built in a way that forces enterprises to deploy a complex new infrastructure that creates yet another administration and policy silo that is difficult to manage.
So how can businesses best secure and manage iPads within the enterprise?
Firstly, it is important to be cognisant of the challenges that businesses will face when employees bring their own mobile devices into the workplace. One of the biggest issues is that employees will be storing corporate intellectual property on their iPads – while the IT Manager may be concerned about this, the end user doesn’t always have the same level of unease. Managing access to the device and, by extension the information on it, is a challenging job for the IT department.
Employees can often be the weakest link when trying to secure iPads within the enterprise. Workers want their devices to be functional for work, accessing emails and other data, but they are not the ones that get paid to worry about security and there is often only a modest penalty, if any, for security breaches. It is up to IT to provide a balanced approach which ensures staff are productive and have the IT tools they need, whilst preventing workers from exposing their company’s sensitive information if a device is lost or stolen.
Businesses also need to be aware that iPads operate on different networks. They are not connected to the Ethernet plug in the wall like a PC is and as such, most of the existing security measures that a company has deployed will not apply to iPads because it operates over the air, via WiFi, or 3G and 4G. This can reduce the visibility of the devices and again creates an information management headache for the IT department.
With this in mind, businesses must ensure that iPads are completely visible across the corporate network and apply policies which restrict ad hoc connections from external devices. Many IT administrators want to incorporate iPads into the same processes and policies that they currently use for employees’ workstations, by setting up authentication credentials, such as passwords and pin numbers, for workers’ devices to access the network.
Businesses are also concerned about what employees can access on their iPads, for instance most companies do not allow employees to have unrestricted use of the internet. Instead they allow staff to access the internet but apply filtering, malware scanning and other security features so as not to leave the company exposed to outsider threats, loss of productivity or malware. Businesses need to ensure that they have the appropriate controls to manage employee iPads remotely, as well as being able to apply permission management across the devices.
To tackle these challenges, businesses can take one of three main approaches as they develop their strategy for iPad security and device management. They could deploy standalone point products for iPad devices, however these will further fragment the business’s identity environment and dedicate even more resources to managing an inefficient environment. Many companies feel that this is their only option as they cannot find affordable solutions which do not require intrusive and impractical changes to their network environment and business practices.
Another option is to synchronise identity stores across iPads and Windows systems. These solutions add yet another complex new infrastructure, and deliver only basic capabilities across identity systems, whilst forcing administrators to manage multiple consoles. This will of course also increase the time assigned to ongoing security and maintenance for IT operations and in turn the associated staffing costs. The result again is a cobbled together infrastructure that has many points of failure.
The simplest and most cost-effective solution is to centralise the management of iPads and other devices by leveraging Microsoft’s on premise directory system, Active Directory, which most businesses already have.
Companies are under pressure to do more with ever decreasing budgets and the right Mobile Device Management solution offers peace of mind to organisations which are increasingly under pressure to allow employees to bring their own smartphones and tablets to work or choose their preferred work allocated devices. More than 3 million of the new iPad were sold in its first three days and this is just one of the many devices which IT managers will need to incorporate in their device management approach.