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IT groups reveal their best enterprise tablet tricks

John Cox | Dec. 19, 2011
New generation tablets are being adopted en masse by enterprises, despite the lack of any support infrastructure from the manufacturers. Many enterprise users, and IT groups, are making determined efforts to secure and manage tablets with whatever tools are available.

2. How big a problem is tablet security?

All three companies take tablet security seriously, yet none ran into any stonewalls. The general consensus: tablet security is manageable, if you manage it.

Potter is blunt. "Security is grossly over-rated as a topic," he says. In the case of Ottawa, very little data is stored on the tablet. In fact, his analogy is that the iPads are like TV screens: all information is streamed to the device. When the user logs off, everything is flushed from memory. "And there are all kinds of security strategies that can be applied to the device, such as providing strong passwords," he says.

It was a harder transition for Hawthorn's Hilton.

"I cringed at the thought of purchasing for our sales force 100 devices running iTunes," he admits. "I was used to a certain amount of control [over client devices]. This was outside my comfort zone."

Hawthorn makes use of some of the security features in Fiberlink's MaaS360 management application, such as automatically locking the screen or wiping the device after a set number of failed logon attempts. Hawthorn doesn't use VPNs for the iPads, in part because so much of the tablet's usage is Web-based. "We've got a sales [department] extranet, a Web portal accessed with username/password," he says. "Seventy-five percent of our employees never touch the corporate LAN."

Bayada relies on a framework of controls and application-level security to safeguard personal health information, says  Baiada. The tablet's SIM card can be remotely disabled if the device is lost or stolen. "We wanted to start 'open' and then restrict as needed," he says.

Can you secure a corporate iPad to the degree you can a corporate laptop?

"You can get pretty dang close," says Accenture's Jenko. Passwords, a range of enforceable password policies, and the growing security capabilities of mobile device management applications, are all necessary elements. "The biggest challenge is that it's a completely different set of tools from those used with laptops," he says.

3. How will you manage the tablets?

"Mobile device management is a massive topic," says Ottawa Hospital's Potter. "We're not doing it well, because no one is. It's becoming critical to our deployment."

Ottawa Hospital currently uses MobileIron. "At the time, it was the only game in town," Potter says. The hospital is readying an RFP to revisit mobile device management as it prepares to deploy about 1,500 iPhones, to cover 5,000 nurses working in shifts. Shift-based device management for iOS gear is "quite a hot topic," Potter says.

Ottawa Hospital and Hawthorn rely on third-party management applications, which create an infrastructure that both Apple and Google lack. Both OS vendors have been introducing management APIs that can be used by these applications.


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