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CIO - Some heady confidential financial documents get passed around on iPads at Blackstone Group, a publicly traded alternative investment and financial services firm based in New York City managing over $200 billion in largely private equity and real estate.
[RELATED: Get ahead of the BYOD wave]
"The iPad is really the most convenient way to consume these documents," says Bill Murphy, CTO and managing director at Blackstone.
At Blackstone, iPads began arriving on the enterprise scene 18 months ago. Today, there are some 600 iPads among nearly 2,000 employees that tap the corporate network for confidential documents and emails. Most of them are privately owned BYOD, or bring your own, devices.
"The percentage of iPads to employees will continue to go up, based on the number of iPads we're adding each month," Murphy says. "My gut is that it will go from 600 to more than 1,000 in the next year."
Blackstone spent a lot of time and energy finding ways to secure confidential documents on BYOD iPads, even looking at possibly purchasing iPads for employees. The company leveraged two main technologies-MobileIron and WatchDox-to solve the security problem.
Slideshow: 15 Ways iPad Goes to Work
But Blackstone isn't out of the woods yet. With Android and Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets bearing down on the market, Murphy faces the daunting challenge of opening up BYOD beyond iPads. His IT team isn't staffed to handle an increasing number of different devices with the same level of customer service.
And then there's the idea of just buying iPads for everyone. Can Murphy find a way to justify it?
CIO.com talked with Murphy about his iPad in the enterprise experience, tablet security and the future of tablet computing at Blackstone.
What kick-started iPads at Blackstone?
Murphy: We're BYOAD right now, or bring your own Apple device. The iPad was the driving factor in wanting to increase the flexibility at the enterprise level, with people saying, "This is a new tool for work, and I want to use it." They immediately saw the value of not bringing their laptops when traveling and having all their documents with them at all times.
The firm was unwilling to buy iPads, but we couldn't say no to those who brought their own.
How important was iPad security? Is today's technology up to the task?
Murphy: Putting confidential information on unmanaged mobile devices was obviously something we didn't want to do. How do we secure the device in a way where we can feel comfortable that the device can be blown up and secured in the event of being lost, stolen or if the employee was let go? This was the gating factor to getting going at all.
How did you overcome this challenge?
Murphy: We restricted the use until we solved that problem with mobile device management. We implemented MobileIron and enabled applications such as email-still far and away the heaviest trafficked work application for mobile devices.
Now we have the ability to control centrally. MobileIron enforces a password, and we have relatively complex password requirements. We can track the device and expire it from afar when it connects to the Internet. This really shrinks down the ability for someone to attack that device to a very small window. We feel comfortable that no company confidential information is going to get stolen.