When Apple’s iPhone was first released, it was generally thought of as a popular consumer gadget that had no place in business. But now, despite the unique challenges, more IT departments are supporting the iPhone than any other mobile platform.
And while IT consumerization and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends have played a big role, the iPhone’s popularity among consumers isn’t the only reason the smartphone is finding greater acceptance in the business world.
In fact, Android smartphones have actually become more popular, making up more than 50% of all smartphones in the U.S., according to February 2012 statistics from comScore.
However, the majority of companies are choosing iOS, which is run on both the iPhone and the iPad, as their primary mobile platform, according to a recent Gartner survey. The poll, conducted in April, found that 58% of enterprises are using or plan to use iOS as their main platform for mobile devices.
That’s compared to just 20% for the BlackBerry, which once ruled the corporate world, and only 9% for Android.
One big reason for that is that Google offers the weakest support for mobile device management (MDM) tools of the three major platforms, Gartner says. Many vendors don’t have applications for Android phones and tablets, because Google hasn’t opened as many application programming interfaces (APIs) for MDM developers, according to the research firm’s report.
The end result is that many IT managers find there are better tools available to remotely manage iPhones and iPads. MDM software enables IT departments to perform critical tasks such as push software updates and enforce IT and security policies.
Apple has also made its devices more enterprise-friendly since the first version of the iPhone was released in 2007, giving IT improved ways to secure and configure those devices. IT departments supporting iPhones should consider taking advantage of the security options provided by Apple and third-party MDM vendors, including:
- Enable password and remote wipe – Basic security features like these can be made part of a device’s Configuration Profile that’s set up by IT.
- Encrypt backed-up data – Data encryption on the iPhone itself is built-in and can’t be turned off, but IT also has the option of encrypted data that’s backed up on a user’s desktop.
- Protect email – IT can configure devices to act as an encryption key for a user’s email account so that email data can’t be accessed if a device is locked.
- Disable certain features and apps – One big security is that sensitive corporate data will be backed up to Apple’s free iCloud service — however, iCloud can be disabled by IT. Configuration Profiles can also be used to disable other capabilities, such as a device’s camera or the ability to install apps.
Read our earlier post for more information on securing the iPhone for business use.