Top-Down Decisions

By Jennifer Lawinski Print this article Print

Tablets will remake enterprise computing. Is your business ready to deploy, support, and profit from the next wave of personal technology?

Top-Down Decisions

Whether integrating employee’s personal tablets into workplace systems, or purchasing and deploying tablets for business uses, keeping the devices and the information they contain safe and secure will be a challenge for IT.

One obstacle for many organizations is a lack of experience in supporting Apple products. But there’s no ignoring the hugely popular iPad, especially when the boss is pushing the brand. “It is not usually the role of the CEO to get directly involved in specific technology device decisions, but Apple's iPad is an exception,” said Stephen Prentice, Gartner Fellow and vice president, in a statement last November.

Gartner vice president Leslie Fiering, who covers mobile computing, sees the same dynamic at work. “The thing that is important to keep in mind is how these things are getting into the enterprise. In many cases the original entry is through the user who bought one for personal use and asks IT to support it,” he says. “What we’re seeing is not only huge demand from the users, but we’re also seeing C-Level execs that are mandating that these come in.”

“Individuals are willing to buy these devices themselves, so enterprises must be ready to support them,” Prentice said.  “While some IT departments will say they are a ‘Windows shop’, and Apple does not support the enterprise, organizations need to recognize that there are soft benefits in a device of this type in the quest to improve recruitment and retention. Technology is not always about productivity.”

Help is on the way: VMWare has launched an app that allows iPad users to access virtual Windows-based desktops on their tablets. Citrix and many others have similar apps on the market, helping overcome the Windows-centric nature of many of today’s corporate IT environments.

Security Issues

One primary concern with tablets is security. “This means a total reevaluation of how remote access is provided.” says Fiering. “The first thing you need to do is examine the network and make sure that the network is truly secure, robust and scalable. You need to assume that you have an endpoint that isn’t very secure, so you put more responsibility on network access controls.”

She says IT will have to decide how to tier access to the network and decide which devices will be fully locked-down company machines with access to everything and which will be restricted. “What we are recommending is that users get limited access, so they only get to the Exchange server to get mail or they only get to certain web-based apps. These are decisions that you can make.”

Endpoint security can no longer be assumed, so critical data shouldn’t be stored on endpoints, she says. “There are a number of ways you can do this – secure access clients like Citrix Receiver or Wise pocket cloud… web-based apps. You can do something called Sandboxing where the application runs in a very isolated environment on the tablet … You need to decide what’s the data that’s most critical.”

Different types of systems have different vulnerabilities. Apple has done a tremendous job at setting the benchmark that everybody else has to meet, Fiering says. Because it’s locked down by Apple, iPads don’t give enterprises much flexibility, but Apple’s apps are vetted by the manufacturer. Android tablets, on the other hand, may suffer in the future from a lack of standardization.

“Android is interesting because being open source, it’s a great thing because it leads to innovation and a lot of really interesting new technology from developers,” she says. “However, being open source also means that you get fragmentation. Everybody wants to do things a little bit differently to differentiate.”

Enterprises need to look at their suppliers, if they choose the Android path, and make sure that their vendors offer adequate support and validate applications.

This article was originally published on 2011-04-06
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