Dealing with the iPhone in the Enterprise

With talk of the 3G iPhone being launched this summer and distribution deals being done across the globe, the iPhone is going to force its way into the enterprise whether the IT department likes it or not, so best be prepared.


Use of the iPhone by business people will only increase as new models come on the market and support for business applications is offered.

Although C-level executives may have originally started to pull the iPhone into the enterprise domain, staff at all levels are now also acquiring iPhones and other smart mobile devices, which they use in both personal and business contexts.

In research from IDC (‘The iPhone Appeals to Business Users, Implies issues for Enterprise IT Departments), more than two thirds of people questioned said that they used the same mobile device for their personal and business lives.

Enterprises must therefore ensure that they are equipped to deal with any mobile devices operating on their corporate networks, whether or not they are supplied by the business.

They need to be able to manage and control these devices as they would any other device with corporate data on it.

The newest generation of mobile services and applications requires additional management capabilities due to their complexity, which can create a major headache for both wireless operators and enterprises.

This is especially the case when the company has mobilised a range of enterprise applications. If the user of a smart device calls IT support with a problem, support cannot see what is wrong, and does not know if the problem is in the device, the network or the application.

Support personnel must ask the user a lot of questions, and may need to call the user back more than once, or even get physical access to the device to check the problem. This is clearly not ideal, is costly, and is frustrating for both the user and the support team.

iPhones and other smart devices also pose a new type of security risk for enterprises.

Employees want to bring their personal mobile devices into the workplace and to use them for “work” purposes, but these devices can hold a lot of corporate data — for example the iPhone can have as much as 16GB of memory, which is vulnerable to unauthorised access and theft.

To mitigate this risk, businesses must be prepared to incorporate all types of smartphones into their IT operations, making these devices compliant with their security, support and management policies.

IT organisations need to be able to manage mobile devices in much the same way they manage other IT assets, such as laptops and PCs. Management needs to start when the user activates the device and must extend to cover the configuration, provisioning, and control of all types of mobile devices throughout their life.

The solution should also be capable of distributing, updating, managing, and removing enterprise applications on the devices. Remote visibility into the device and real-time access to information about its state allows both operators and enterprises to find, diagnose, and fix user problems over the air.

This significantly shortens the time it takes to solve problems and reduces management costs while increasing the productivity of mobile device users.

In fact, with these systems in place, support teams may receive a far lower volume of service calls. With real-time insight into the actual user experience with voice and data services, IT organisations can proactively find and solve bottlenecks and other performance problems before they affect the user.

Once a company has achieved a high degree of visibility and control over all devices that hold corporate data, security risks are reduced significantly.

Core device security capabilities include locking lost phones, wiping stolen phones, backing up critical information and being able to restore it if something goes wrong.

Granular feature control enables the IT manager to turn on and off such features as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and camera. The ability to distribute applications also provides another layer of security by extending security capabilities used elsewhere in the enterprise — from encryption and anti-virus to VPNs and firewalls — into the mobile world.

Device management systems can also automatically distribute, provision, apply, update, adjust and decommission applications on mobile devices as needed, over the air.

Enterprises may have to contend with multiple different devices being used by one subscriber as people opt to use their personal devices rather than any provided by the business. This can make managing devices far more complex than if there were a standard set of devices used across the board.

It is increasingly the case that different people will want to use different devices, and IT managers must accommodate this, especially if the user is the CEO.

Enabling remote management and device support can mean the difference between a well-functioning mobile workforce, or a team stuck in the office trying to activate email and other applications on sophisticated devices or scrambling to contain a security breach.

IT directors and CIOs must therefore ensure that they have a comprehensive system for mobile device management in place if they are to take advantage of the huge productivity benefits, but avoid the risks and pitfalls, of modern mobile working.

Matt Bancroft, is vice president of mobile device management software company Mformation

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