Phones

Managing Smartphones in Your Business

iPhone

Widely regarded as a consumer toy more than a business tool when it was launched, the iPhone has forced its way into the corporate culture. Apple does not have the same degree of network integration or enterprise capabilities as RIM or Microsoft, but it has developed the tools small businesses need to simplify and centralize management of the iPhone.

iPhone & iPad
The iPhone Configuration Utility 2.0 is available for both Windows and Mac OS X, and provides IT administrators with a robust set of tools to manage iPhones. Passcode policies can be configured and enforced using the iPhone Configuration Utility 2.0. IT administrators can establish that a security passcode is required on the iPhone, and define the parameters for it--length, complexity, expiration. Passcode policy can also be used to set the amount of time before the iPhone auto-lock kicks in, and to set the number of failed logon attempts that occurs before a wipe of all data is triggered.

With this tool, access to explicit media from the iTunes store can be blocked, or access to the iTunes store can be restricted entirely. IT administrators can also control the use of certain applications--like Safari and YouTube--or disable the camera functionality.

Configuration profiles can be used to configure and manage a variety of other iPhone features and functions as well. Wi-Fi network authentication, VPN settings, and e-mail accounts can all be centrally configured and maintained via configuration profiles. IT administrators can also control whether or not a user can remove the configuration profile--locking it down so that removal requires an administrator password or a complete reset of the iPhone.

The iPhone Configuration Utility 2.0 provides IT administrators with four options for deploying iPhone configurations. Devices can be synced with current configuration profiles by connecting directly via USB, as an e-mail attachment that installs the profile when executed, by making the configuration profile available on a Web site users can navigate to from the iPhone, or over-the-air with a secure enrollment and configuration process using the Simple Certificate Enrollment Protocol (SCEP).

Android

The Android mobile operating system from Google is the new kid on the block among the smartphone platforms, but it has emerged as arguably the strongest competitor for the popular Apple iPhone. Devices like the Motorola Droid, and Google's Nexus One have created a devoted user base for Android.

HTC EVO 4G
The Android platform is still nascent, but it is has the advantage of being open source. For companies and business professionals that are reluctant to adopt Apple's proprietary, closed-system approach, Android devices offer similar features and capabilities as the iPhone, but on a completely open platform.

The downside to Android for business use is that the tools and applications necessary to centrally deploy and manage Android devices are scarce. If your company uses Google Apps Premier Edition to manage e-mail and calendar services, however, Android can be a great option.

Herding the Cats

Depending on the size of your organization, the issue of provisioning, managing, and securing smartphones can still be complex. Larger businesses with substantial IT budgets can and should mandate a company-standard smartphone platform, even going so far as to supply business handsets to workers who need mobile access. But small businesses are more often plagued by the challenge of managing a diverse portfolio of employee-owned smartphones that span the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iPhone, and Android platforms.

To protect against the possibility of data loss or security breaches, the safest bet is to identify which of your users actually need mobile access and then simply give them a business handset that you tightly control. That way, if it's lost, you can wipe it remotely and keep damage to a minimum. Meanwhile, it may be good policy to simply forbid users from accessing e-mail and other internal resources from their smartphones unless their job duties specifically require it. The right choice will depend entirely on the type of business you're in, and the balance of risk versus productivity rewards.

There is a third option that can resolve this dilemma, though. A third-party solution such as Good for Enterprise can provide a comprehensive, cross-platform solution. Good Mobile Control, a component of Good for Enterprise, provides IT administrators with a smartphone solution that includes over-the-air device management, granular and consistent mobile security policy enforcement, and end-to-end visibility for troubleshooting and support with client applications for iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and other smartphone platforms.

Smartphones are powerful tools that will only continue to evolve and integrate more deeply with business processes. With mobile OS-based tablets like the Apple iPad, the possibilities are even greater for mobile computing and productivity. IT administrators must address the challenge of integrating these devices into the network infrastructure, and do so in a way that can be easily and centrally maintained.

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page , or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com . He also tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW .

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For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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