Why iPhone and Android phones are unsuitable for the Enterprise world

Every month there seems to be another news article about a large enterprise investigating the possibility of replacing some or all of their Blackberry devices with iPhones or Android devices.

I can almost guarantee that the reason for this is due to senior managers who no longer want to carry around their funky iPhones as well as their boring old Blackberry. These senior managers see their kids using email on their iPhone and chew out their CIO because they can’t see their work email on their own. Unfortunately these senior managers don’t often understand the implications of their request, and this post is an attempt to help educate them.

1. iPhones have useless data encryption
The iPhone 3GS encryption is useless. It can be broken in under 2 minutes using software freely available on the internet.

In contrast, countries like the UAE and India are considering banning Blackberries within their country because even their government’s top science people can’t break the encryption.

For firms like UBS and JP Morgan this is a problem. More and more laws are being created relating to the encryption of customers financial data. For example, in Massachusetts:

The law requires any firm conducting business with state residents to deploy encryption and protect against data leakage. A combination of a person’s name along with their Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number must be encrypted when stored on portable devices, or transmitted wirelessly on public networks, according to the new law.

Encryption of personal information on portable devices carrying identity data like laptops, PDAs and flash drives must also be completed by Jan. 1, according to the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, which announced the extension Thursday.

2. Control of device settings using policies
Blackberry’s have the ability to be controlled from a central administration console within the organisation. This means that systems administrators can control everything about a device from a server. This also ensures that all devices have a standard configuration making it far less likely they will stop working and easier (read: cheaper) for the service desk to support.

Enabling the encryption settings mentioned above on a fleet of 22,000 Blackberry’s involves changing one setting on a server. To change this setting on 22,000 iPhones it needs to be done manually on each device. Even then, there is no way to detect if it has actually been configured on each device. Something a financial auditor will pounce on immediately.

An enterprise solution also allows settings such as password unlock requirements to be enforced on the device. This allows administrators to ensure that if a device wiped clean if it is lost, and someone finds it and types the password wrong a few times. If this setting is configured manually on an iPhone or Android, it is often disabled by the user because they find it too cumbersome to type a password in each time they want to make a phone call or read an email.

3. Control of application installation
An enterprise solution, such as Blackberry, allows an administrator to control which applications an end user can install on their devices. This cannot currently be done on an iPhone or Android device. Allowing users to install any application that they choose on a corporate device poses several security problems.

A rogue application may have back doors or security flaws allowing it to steal corporate emails, calendar appointments and send them to the application author. A lot of malicious programmers embed this type of code within games or any other application that may seem initially harmless. This could allow sensitive customer data to fall into the wrong hands.

By only allowing users to install approved and tested applications system administrators can ensure this will not happen. It is amazing how many organisations ban installation of applications on locked down laptop and desktop computers but don’t seem to care what their users install on their mobile devices, which contain the same types of customer information.

At the end of the day, iPhones and Android phones are great and I couldn’t imagine life without one. However these are consumer products and therefore not designed for corporate use. Corporate devices are safe, secure and robust. This basically means that they are boring, which is why people want to stop using them. One day iPhones and Android might evolve to a point when they are suitable for corporate use, but I hope that never happens as it will take the fun, spontaneity and creativity out of them.

2 Responses to “Why iPhone and Android phones are unsuitable for the Enterprise world”

  1. Thomas says:

    I really like iphones, but i personally think that the price is way to big. I don’t want to pay extra for apple sign on it. For now i prefer htc.

  2. New Era Hats says:

    Great article, I think you covered everything there.

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