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Network World - Tablets are a tricky proposition for many IT departments since the mobile devices boast many of the content creation capabilities of laptops but lack mature management and security software.
Employees who use their own or employer-supplied iPads or other tablet computers for work purposes could be unwittingly exposing company data to hackers if they don't take the proper precautions, either while on the company network or a public Wi-Fi network.
"Tablets are a lot different than laptops because most people don't bring their laptops to work and say, 'I want you to connect my laptop to the company's network,'" says Dan Croft, the CEO of wireless administrative services company Mission Critical Wireless. "Most laptops are going to be controlled and locked down by the company. But if a company is going to utilize tablets with corporate apps on it, there needs to be a certain level of control that an enterprise has while also recognizing that tablets will be used for both business and personal functions."
With that in mind, here are three practices that analysts and users recommend considering when your company first takes the plunge and either invests in tablets or allows workers to bring their own to the office.
Using a mobile device management platforms is the best way to implement remote wipe policies, password policy enforcement and minimum security guidelines for mobile devices on corporate networks.
"You need to run a device management platform so the company has some basic knowledge of and a certain level of control over any device that's connected to its network," says Croft. "It's the best way to have a single pane of glass that will give you control over what devices have access to your network."
BACKGROUND: Our mobile device management tool test
The top MDM platforms such as those from AirWatch, MobileIron and Sybase support multiple operating systems, meaning you don't need separate systems to manage whatever devices users bring with them to the office. Instead, your IT shop can focus on managing the users themselves.
"In general, there's a concept right now that you should start managing the user rather than managing the device," says Forrester analyst Christian Kane. "So you should understand that workers can use one type of device at home and another type at work but you'll still give them access to the applications they need."
What this means for users, says Kane, is that the company will let them bring any device they want to work but it won't take responsibility for repairing that device if it gets broken or replacing it if it gets lost. Rather, the job of the enterprise will be to provision access to certain applications that the user needs and barring them from accessing apps that can't be securely used on their device.
Jim Freeland, team leader of the enterprise mobility group for medical equipment vendor Medtronic, has spent the last year or so helping to manage iPads on his network. He says that while companies should allow their workers to bring own devices to work, they also need to lay down the law through mobile device management policies that will ensure that users practice strong security protocols in exchange for access to the corporate network.