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iPads storm the enterprise

Apple's new application-level encryption paves the way for companies to run business apps on the iPad

By Maria Korolov, Network World
February 14, 2011 06:04 AM ET

Network World - As global accounts director at Altus, Inc., Michelle Klatt's job is to visit Fortune 500 companies and demonstrate her firm's video management software. When the iPad came out a year ago, she was all over it.

"I was one of the first salespeople to get one," she says. "I fought very hard.'' Her company's videos look "absolutely beautiful" on the iPad, she says. And once the sales presentation is over, she uses her iPad to update the entry for the sales prospect, log the meeting, send out follow-up e-mails, manage her LinkedIn contacts, and do other job-related paperwork.

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"I do everything on the iPad," she says. "It's really my laptop when I want it to be, but it's far lighter."

Klatt is at the leading edge of a growing wave of enterprise customers who are adopting the iPad for business use. "Enterprise CIOs are adding iPad to their approved device list at an amazing rate,'' Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said recently. "Today, over 80% of the Fortune 100 are already deploying or piloting iPad, up from 65% in the September quarter. Some recent examples include JPMorgan Chase, Cardinal Health, Wells Fargo, Archer Daniels Midland, Sears Holdings and DuPont."

A major reason that iPads are being accepted in the enterprise is that Apple significantly upgraded its iOS operating system last summer to include a number of enterprise-friendly security features.

"These include application-level encryption," says Andrew Jaquith, CTO at Perimeter E-Security and former lead security analyst at Forrester Research. "This encrypts the content of each application's data with a unique key, separating out each application's data on the device."

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Encryption is built into the hardware, making it fast - and also making it easy for enterprises to wipe the device if it's lost or stolen. "In a tenth of a second," Jaquith says.

In addition, iOS 4 allows enterprises to impose security policies on their mobile devices. Policies can be imposed on all company-owned iPads and iPhones, or added to personal devices owned by employees.

They include setting a password lock, requiring a device to automatically erase company data after a certain number of failed logins, blocking camera access, or locking down the device to prevent users from installing unauthorized applications.

"It's not as sophisticated as the Blackberry, which has something like 500 security settings," Jaquith says. "But it has the important ones nailed."

As a result, he says, the iPad is a pretty secure system, with a decent set of centralized, enterprise-friendly management tools, he says.

Still room for improvement

The iPad isn't going to cut it for NSA-level, top secret applications that require separate levels of biometric authentication, he says. However, individual applications can ask for one-time passwords generated by RSA or VeriSign key fobs, or access confirmation delivered over a separate cell phone.

In addition, while iPad e-mail can be funneled through a company network - with all the monitoring, archiving and auditing already built into the enterprise gateways - text messages go out over less secure telephone networks.

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