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BlackBerry's Storm in the enterprise

By , Computerworld
February 12, 2009 11:40 AM ET

Computerworld - Since the BlackBerry Storm's release in November , Scott Slater, technology architect at The Bank of New York Mellon, has been putting it through its paces. He's got some advice for you: Test, rinse, repeat.

Slideshow: Smartphone showdown: iPhone vs. BlackBerry Storm

The Storm, which is currently carried only by Verizon Wireless in the U.S., allows IT managers to offer their users an ultracool touch-screen alternative to the Apple iPhone and Google Android that can be centrally managed and locked down or erased if lost or stolen, Slater says. KACE has recently begun selling an appliance that centrally manages iPhones , but the Storm is the only one that is managed via already existing software -- the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), in this case. However, that doesn't mean the Storm is an automatic win for the corporate world. The Storm's focus on consumer-like features such as Web browsing and social networking raises a red flag.

"In the past, messaging has been the primary use for the BlackBerry, so we've primarily focused on securing e-mail. The Storm's touch screen makes the browser, multimedia playback and enterprise social networking applications just as attractive because they are easy to use with tactile response," Slater says, and that means IT managers need to pay attention to mobile security in those areas as well.

Steven Ferguson, senior network engineer at the Technical College System of Georgia in Atlanta, is also evaluating the Storm for his users and agrees. "The traditional BlackBerry has always had somewhat limited browser function, but now media content of all types is readily available on the device. In fact, it features support for a removable card that will be able to store up to 32GB of data. While that makes it a great competitor to the iPhone, it also makes it a challenge for IT because we have to know what is being accessed and stored on the device," he says.

Although the BlackBerry devices have not been specifically targeted, Ferguson worries that the Storm's Web 2.0 capabilities and removable memory could be seen as entryways for hackers. "Recent worms have been spread through removable media, and other malware has been spread through media download locations. Therefore, we have to make sure the devices are secure and business applications remain stable," he says.

But neither Slater nor Ferguson says the Storm's consumer-ish enhancements are a deterrent. In fact, Slater has already begun to roll the devices out to some of the company's global users and sees great potential for it, such as enabling employees to receive corporate video communications on their mobile device. And Ferguson says he'll adopt the Storm when it is offered by his primary carrier, AT&T.

Rather than fighting the CrackBerry contingent, IT managers should thoroughly test-drive the Storm, map its capabilities to their acceptable use policies and compliance mandates, and then apply sophisticated network- and device-level controls.

Policy police

Before IT teams can begin to manage the Storm on a technical basis, however, they must first dust off their acceptable use policies and make sure they've addressed the organization's tolerance level for mobile access to social networking, Web sites, multimedia and corporate assets, according to Phil Hochmuth , an analyst at Yankee Group Research Inc.

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