Security Issues

By Jennifer Lawinski Print this article Print

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

Security Issues

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

Fiering says IT will have to decide how to tier access to the network: They will have to choose which devices will be fully locked-down company machines with access to everything, and which tablets will be restricted. “We recommend that users get limited access, so they can tap only into the Exchange server to get mail or certain Web-based apps,” she explains. Endpoint security can no longer be assumed, so critical data shouldn’t be stored on endpoints, she adds.

“There are a number of ways to do this: with secure access clients like Citrix Receiver or Wyse PocketCloud ... Web-based apps,” Fiering says. “You can do something called ‘sandboxing,’ wherein the application runs in a very isolated environment on the tablet. You need to decide what data is 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,” according to Fiering. Apple’s apps are vetted by the manufacturer, but because they’re locked down by Apple, iPads don’t give enterprises much flexibility. Android tablets, on the other hand, may suffer in the future from a lack of standardization, she says.

“Android is interesting because, being open source, 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 that choose the Android path need to ensure that their suppliers validate applications and provide adequate support. “It’s important to make sure the supplier understands how to do the validation and is very consistent, and, if there is fragmentation, that the supplier’s platform will maintain consistency,” says Fiering.

As the tablet market expands in the next few years, there’s no telling which vendor will wind up on top. Some applications will require users to take notes on an image or collect signatures—tasks for which users would need a pen or stylus. Some tablets will have restricted viewing angles or be diffi-cult to use in bright sunlight, like Apple’s iPad and iPad 2.

In addition, many tablets might need to be recharged during a typical shift for workers in the field who are using power-intensive applications. Apple’s iPad 2 battery can last for up to 10 hours, the company says, while Asus says its Eee Pad Transformer tablet will last 16 hours—but only when plugged into a keyboard dock.

However, with more pros than cons—including instant-on functionality, easy-to-use interfaces, the variety of applications and portability—tablets will surely find their place in the enterprise.

“Notebooks are kludgy,” Fiering says. “You’re still dealing with the heavy, complex Windows interface. [Tablets] are lighter and easier to use, and the instant-on is huge.”

When it comes to vendors, Fiering says each has its strengths and weaknesses. With Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, running on Google’s Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” operating system, good design is a major asset. “But what do they know about software … enterprise security?” she asks.

The Cisco Cius is a unified communications device with a tablet interface, so it’s more limited than other Androids or iOS tablets. And while Cisco understands enterprise security, it hasn’t shown itself to have a stronghold in the apps market, Fiering says.

Motorola’s Xoom is “a pretty cool device,” she says, “but let’s look at who’s delivering this. This is not the enterprise solutions folks. This is the handsets group—the consumer group.”

Regardless of the vendors in the marketplace, it will be a question of when, not if, your enterprise jumps on the tablet bandwagon. “They’re out there and they’re pretty darned prevalent,” Fiering says. “The real question for us is, which companies can keep them out?”

Certainly not Children’s Hospital Central California—they’ve already been sold.

See our slideshow, “Tablets for Business”.

This article was originally published on 2011-10-03
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