Five iPad Issues IT Workers Need To Think About

The iPad is an increasingly common sight in office environments, whether or not it's officially supported as part of your company's IT policy. Device choice is increasingly a fact of life these days, but here are five iPad-related issues you might not have thought about if you're in IT.

Picture by Robert Agthe

If the company you work for is offering browser-based services, getting the basics up and running on an iPad isn't difficult. Syncing mail is also no drama, and it doesn't take long to remind people to set a passcode on their device as an elementary form of security. But the job of supporting an iPad doesn't end there.

In a recent white paper, Gartner analyst Leslie Fiering highlighted five issues relating to the iPad. None of these remotely strike me as showstoppers that mean you should push for a "ban all iPads" approach (even assuming that was feasible). But they're worth considering in the context of your company's IT environment and making sure people get the best from the tablet experience.

Security is a problem that needs considering. Unsurprisingly, Fiering's big finding is that security is a major concern for the iPad (and for most tablets):

For all intents and purposes, iPads and virtually all of today's media tablets are unsecure endpoints. This doesn't diminish the value of the platform, but means that none of the lessons learned on PCs about managing secure endpoints apply.

That means checking whether apps used by users take advantage of iOS' security features, ensuring passwords are set and using appropriate remote wipe technologies.

Make sure you have appropriate licensing. If you're using browser-delivered apps, or making apps available through virtualisation technologies such as Citrix XenDesktop, you may require additional licences if your enterprise contract is device-based rather than user-based.

Virtualised apps can be tricky to use. Another issue with XenDesktop, VMware View and the like is that they are designed for use with a mouse/keyboard environment, rather than a finger. As Fiering notes:

There are workarounds for lack of mouse and pen support. However, feedback from clients indicates that in some of their current business applications, the level of control is not fine enough, especially if the user has to zoom in and out frequently to perform repetitive tasks that involve selecting small items (such as small font text from a pulldown window).

People who want to use an iPad will happily put up with these minor hassles, but if you decide to make iPads a compulsory tool, they could be more tricky.

Global purchasing usually isn't possible. Because Apple's focus is on individual buyers rather than enterprises, there's no mechanism for centralised global purchasing. Even if your corporate policy is to go through a central (and generally US) provisioning system, you'll need a different arrangement for iPads. (That won't necessarily be a problem if people are taking a BYO device approach, of course.)

Formatting fidelity can vary when moving documents to and from an iPad. This isn't going to matter if you're just taking basic text notes. However, if presentations are being reviewed and edited on an iPad, it makes sense to remind people to double-check them on other devices when they're sent back.

Got any good tips for iPad enterprise deployment? We'd love to hear them in the comments.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.


Comments

    Use the iPhone Configuration Utility provided by apple: http://www.apple.com/support/iphone/enterprise/

    Build a good, strong profile and make sure you get everything you want in there at the start - restrictions, passcodes strength, conditional VPNs, that sort of thing. Roll it onto all ipads/iphones before they're given out.

    You probably want a mobile device management server. Mobileiron and Airwatch were the best when I last looked into them, but that was over a year ago.

    The most important: Get this done BEFORE people start getting work iPads. People get annoyed if you take away their toy and lock down some of the fun things.

    On the current version of iOS, there's also nothing to stop a user bypassing Apple security's entirely and jailbreaking the device by visiting the website www.jailbreakme.com which uses a simple pdf exploit to work it's magic.

    You should hear management and users freak out when I quote them $2,500 when they request an iPad for remote access. " An iPad is only $800 dollars on the apple web site" I get all the time. Then I tell them they need to pay the rest to Bill Gates when the connect to our terminal server to be correctly licensed for all the apps they may or may not use.

    I've use the iPhone Configuration Utility. The first thing users do when they re-sync the iPad to their company laptop is remove the configuration utility so they can install non work related apps. The configuration utility may as well not exist.

    Also with iPad tracking, once you remote wipe, you cannot track, and the end user can just wipe and recover, again may as well not have.

      That's why you set up the profile so that all work related items are initially loaded via it (all mail/calendaring, vpn, etc). When they remove the profile, they remove all access to work data - hence there's no longer any security risk, and they can install whatever they like.

      @simon: a couple of the mobile device management tools can actually tell you whether any of your ios devices have been jailbroken.

    michael, justify your comment. We outfitted our office with iPads for roughly $600 a person. Who licenses connections to servers at this rate? Ridiculous.

      Joseph - understand that your CAL agreement is likely different to Michael's. For example, I'm under an EES that provides a VERY different licensing scheme to something like SA or similar. If Michael is using per device licensing with Office, Citrix and a couple of other software packages, it's easy to pay $2k per year per device.

    It's true, security is a big issue, and at the end of the day iPad users are more interested in getting what they want out of their iPads than they are in following security protocol.

    At Moprise, we do three apps that provide SharePoint access. We know that some users are on company-approved iPads, and some aren't. We built in an extra layer of security on top of encryption so users could clear their cache when they're done with documents.

    The trick is, are the apps we're building attractive enough to users that they're deterred from taking other action to work from home? They're going to do what's easiest. We're trying to design things that way right now, and have some trials going on for our app Coaxion (www.coaxion.com) which we're releasing for the iPad in a few weeks. Give us a shout if any of you are interested in trying it out and helping us design it in the right direction around security features.

    A new feature of Citrix Receiver includes a Virtual Trackpad / Pointer mode that displays a mouse pointer ( even magnified ) and your finger can move anywhere on the iPad offset from the pointer. ( ie your finger does not cover the item )

    This was implemented based on feedback as noted in the article.

    The biggest problem with iPads is iTunes - installing, updating, supporting it and dealing with the inevitable torrent of personal and often questionably obtained material scattered across your corporate devices. Yes, tech savvy users can set up and use dropbox - but do you want your sensitive corporate data scattered uncontrolled around the cloud?

    Bring on iOS 5 and freedom from iTunes!

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