When the iPad was first released just over four years ago many critics said it was little more than a toy and that it would never be taken seriously by business. Now, just a short time later and there’s barely a household that doesn’t have an iPad and they are common in executive suites and boardrooms all over the world.
Why is that?
For starters, Apple’s brand power is incredibly powerful. The iPhone gave the company a huge boost with consumers. Where they won the market was in the way the hardware and software seamlessly worked together. It meant usability was suddenly enhanced in a way no one had achieved before. As a result, users bought iPhones and started bringing them to work.
Once the iPad was released, a few years later, Apple had already infiltrated businesses. The iPad built on the iPhone’s success.
Although Apple has never been a serious enterprise computing company they did a few things that helped them with businesses. For example, integrated VPN support, a secure operating system with all data automatically encrypted, the curated App Store and support for Microsoft Exchange all meant that connecting and connecting and securing an iPad is relatively easy.
The thing about the iPad isn’t that it can do things other tablets can’t. It’s that it makes many things much easier.
The recent announcement that IBM would be making enterprise apps for iOS vindicates what many have been saying – the iPad is a viable business device. IBM’s announcement means that businesses won’t just be looking for apps that fulfil pieces of the enterprise puzzle. They’ll be able to deploy end-to-end architectures and solutions that leverage the iPad.
The iPad also offers lots of advantages for mobile workers. The lightweight and slim body makes it ideal for those who need to stay connected while out of the office. The combination of Wi-Fi, cellular data and Bluetooth coupled with inbuilt VPN support and the ability to use third-party VPN solutions mean you can be securely connected using any number of different methods.
One area where the iPad has lagged behind notebooks and laptops has been deployment. Many businesses have well-established processes for deploying Windows-based devices that include configuration and application deployment. The Apple Configurator is a great, free tool for deploying lots of iOS devices. It allows you to disable specific applications, configure security, email and other settings for lots of iPads at one time.
We’ve also had success creating our own configuration tool that could be used to set up iPads over a Wi-Fi network using Apple’s Over The Air tools. If you’re looking for commercial products that do this then the Casper Suite is worth a look.
To BYOD or not to BYOD
BYOD has been one of the big enterprise trends of the last few years. The decision on whether BYOD is a suitable IT model for your business will depend on your preferences.
On one hand, getting users to buy their own equipment and bring it into the office sounds good as you can abrogate the responsibility for purchasing. On the other hand, IT’s control of the device is limited.
If you’re looking at BYOD, one thing you’ll want to ensure is that your business data and the user’s personal data are separated. In many cases that means running corporate applications in a secure ‘container’ on the device – similar to a virtual machine. For example, Good Technology offers a number of enterprise applications this way.
If you do decide that BYOD is the right fit for your business, make sure you put in place a mechanism for removing corporate data when employees leave that does not wipe their personal data.