By Phillip Garton
iOS 7 has brought about a fresh new face to Apple’s product line and with it, many new features for the consumer market. iOS 7 has come with a new layered UI, new integrated apps such as iRadio and many features that have bolstered the gaming and consumer app market. But the unsung heroes of iOS 7 are the extensive strides that Apple has taken to make their products more secure and more configurable solutions for the enterprise market, furthering the gap in this segment from its competitors. In this blog post, we will look at some of the key features that make Apple products the “go to” choice for enterprises running both Corporate Supplied Devices and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) networks.
Find My iPhone
A key issue facing all enterprises is how to handle a lost or stolen device that contains corporate information. iOS 7 goes a long way to address this issue. Find My iPhone can be accessed from another iOS device, an iCloud account through the web, or iCloud when it’s installed on a computer. This utility can locate your device, lock your device, or wipe it remotely. The only way to gain access to the device is to log on with the iCloud account that it was activated with. This remote access to the device gives the owner great control over the security of the phone. Find My iPhone doesn’t restrict this functionality to the sole owner of the phone. Apple has extended this feature to the enterprise as well. Find My iPhone can also be used by IT when the device is registered to a MDM. Through a MDM IT can put the device into “lost mode” when it has been lost or stolen. This feature greatly extends the reach of IT for mobile devices and goes to great lengths to give more control over devices that are utilized for corporate purposes.
Available on iPhone 5S models, the fingerprint identity sensor adds an extra level of security to the device. The 500ppi fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button can keep data more secure with a unique identifier that we all already posses: the fingerprint. As this doesn’t bring true two-factor authentication to the device, the passcode is reserved as a backup to the Touch ID. However, the passcode is utilized when the device is restarted or has not been unlocked for 48 hours. This enables enterprise IT to enforce secure passcodes (7 or more characters), while allowing easy day to day access to the device.
Open in Management
Open in Management gives IT greater control over how corporate data is used, once on the device. This is achieved by giving IT control over what data is opened in what app on the device, possibly keeping sensitive data from being opened in unauthorized apps. How this effectively works is by the following means. Managed apps can only send data to other managed apps, i.e., work apps can only talk to other work apps, while unmanaged apps can send data to both managed and unmanaged or they can send only to unmanaged apps. This helps control the data, so that corporate data can not be shared or opened in unwanted apps.
Per App VPN
The use of VPNs is nothing new. Corporations have used Virtual Private Networks to keep their networks secure and restrict outside access to the network. The issue with a VPN is that, while the user is connected to the VPN, all traffic – including personal traffic – is routed through the corporate connection. Per App VPN removes this issue by allowing only managed apps data traffic to be routed through the VPN connection, minimizing network traffic, thus giving a greater level of freedom to the user, as personal traffic stays outside the corporate network.
Enterprise Single Sign On
Handling app authentication can now be achieved by only signing on once. Enterprise single sign on (SSO) means that the user only needs to log into corporate systems once. This is available for app purchased from the app store as well. Each app that is configured with SSO, confirms roles and permissions for access corporate systems, thus eliminating the need for multiple log ins. This greatly increases usability of multiple applications on a users device. However, this comes at a cost: for SSO to work in most environments, it must be connected to a secure network. This limits its use to local networks or VPNs, as home networks, public WIFI and cellular connections are not secure.
Caching Server 2
Caching Server 2 now supports iOS 7 and runs on a corporate Mac running OS X Server. Caching Server 2 allows the caching of purchased content and software updates on a local networked Mac. This allows for the download and delivery of content through the App Store, iTunes Store and iBooks Store to be greatly sped up, reducing network traffic in all, by allowing users to get content to their iOS devices, over the corporate network.
Apple has now made iWork a more viable cross device and cross-platform alternative to Office. iWork is now accessible from the cloud and can be ran on any computer Mac or PC through the browser. Apple has also made iWork apps free starting with OS X with any new purchase. At this time iOS based apps are still $9.99 for each app. Early releases of iOS 8 images show the iWork suite on the Home Tab, bringing the question of whether iWork will become free on mobile as well. If so, this could unlock a large portion of corporate users who still feel tied to Office and grant freedom to view, edit, and create documents from anywhere.
iBeacons are Bluetooth low energy signals that allow the locations of iOS device users, to be found with much greater precision than GPS or Wi-Fi. The range of usefulness of this technology hasn’t yet been fully realized. The applications for this can range from finding a printer in your office building to finding the nearest emergency exit. Apps can alert when approaching or leaving a location. This could potentially even be used for check out at a retail store. Maybe an iWallet? The limits for this could be endless depending on your imagination This is just a tip of the iceberg of the enterprise improves that Apple has made to iOS 7. It is easy to see, however, that Apple knows it’s the choice mobile device for enterprise mobility and they are working hard to keep it that way. Improvements have come in iOS 7.1 and I am sure we will see even greater improvements in iOS 8.
Make sure to check back in June on the Cogent Blog, when we will cover all the latest news from WWDC and how it will impact your Enterprise Mobility!