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IPads storm the enterprise

Maria Korolov | Feb. 14, 2011
As global accounts director at Altus, Inc., Michelle Klatt's job is to visit Fortune 500 companies and demonstrate her firm's video management software. When the iPad came out a year ago, she was all over it.

Unfortunately, the same factors that make the iPad so attractive to frequent travelers like Klatt - its light weight, ease of use and coolness - also make it popular with thieves.

To keep customer data safe, experts say, enterprises should encrypt all sensitive communications in and out of the device, encrypt customer data and important documents that are stored on the device itself, use the strongest practical authentication mechanisms, and opt for cloud delivery of content rather than local storage, when available.

Traffic from an end user's iPad to Salesforce.com and other CRM sites, as well as e-mail systems and enterprise application servers, travels over public networks - but the iPad's built-in encryption makes these communications as secure as those from laptops or desktops, experts say.

Plus, the SaaS vendors provide their own layer of security. "The better cloud-type applications have built-in security," says security expert Jeff Kalwerisky, Chief Security Evangelist for Alpha Software. "When you log in and you're property authenticated, it switches to HTTPS, and that means it's running secure. There's no alternative to that. Unencrypted data over a public network is kind of like writing your Social Security number on a post card and putting it in the U.S. mail. The more mature applications, like Salesforce.com, automatically encrypt the data."

However, many home-grown applications don't have encryption built in, especially if they were originally developed for older, comparatively under-powered mobile devices, he says. Encryption would have slowed down the applications to the point where they were not usable. With the iPad, developers don't have to compromise on encryption, he says.

"If you're building your own app, that's a big issue," he says. "The beauty of the iPad is that it has powerful processors. It has the ability to do the encryption and decryption on the device."

Flight from Flash

When it comes to CRM apps, one problem is that pages may have some Flash functionality - which is not currently supported on the iPad.

For example, SugarCRM uses Flash to create visual representations of data, says Martin Schneider, senior director of communications for SugarCRM.

"We're making the move from Flash to an HTML 5 charting engine so you can see everything in its beautiful glory," he says. This would allow iPad users to access the SugarCRM application directly via Safari - no need to download a separate application.

For users who must store data on the iPad itself - for example, if they're flying to Asia and plan to use the time in the air to get some work done - there are third-party services such as that of Australia-based RhoLogic that allow SugarCRM data to be downloaded onto the iPad and stored in encrypted form.

 

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