Deployment

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 are taking a Good Friday break due to a scheduled server upgrade. They'll be back tomorrow. Apologies for any inconvenience.