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Apple's iCloud and iOS 5: New challenges for the enterprise

Ryan Faas, Computerworld | June 7, 2011
Although many of the features Apple talked up Monday during the WWDC keynote could be a boon to enterprise IT shops, some could pose security challenges, says columnist Ryan Faas.

 

Easier iOS deployment with PC activation?

Moving beyond iCloud, iOS 5 represents a major milestone in that Apple has finally decided to allow iOS device activation and setup without using iTunes on a PC or Mac. It's a step that's long overdue.

Does this mean that rolling out large numbers of iOS devices will become easier and more streamlined: almost definitely. iOS 4 introduced all the needed components for an automated setup process. Either using Apple's existing tools to create configuration profiles or using a third-party mobile device management solution, the process of auto-configuring most of iOS is already possible.

In fact, for employee-owned devices, enrollment and provisioning of security features and user account/device setup can already be almost completely automated. The Achilles' Heel has been that new devices must be activated in iTunes before any setup -- automated or not, tethered or over the air -- can even begin.

Although Apple didn't demo the setup process, I would imagine that there will be some type of option for auto-configuration. This may be something explicit that all users see, like a configuration server address field with a skip option, or it may be something more discrete -- after selecting a Wi-Fi network and authenticating during setup, iOS may scan the network for a management server and enroll the device automatically.

Most likely, Apple will offer a combination of options so that an organization can completely configure company-owned devices like iPads while also supporting more limited auto-setup options for personal devices like iPhones. In that latter case, the user would obviously play some role in the process.Of course, this alone doesn't resolve some of the challenges involved in providing users with third-party apps related to their work. Unless Apple is planning to take the wraps off an enterprise volume licensing solution for the App Store (not likely), this will remain a fly in the ointment. It is worth noting, that Apple has taken some early steps in this direction for education institutions, so something along these lines is certainly plausible.

 

iOS 5's lock screen and security

Earlier, I touched on potential security concerns introduced by iCloud that could apply to PCs and Macs in an organization as well as iOS devices. One area of concern with iOS 5 has nothing to do with iCloud; it involves the new lock screen.

In every iOS release to date, you couldn't do anything from the lock screen besides view a handful of often generic notifications, unlock the device, use it as a digital picture frame (iPad-only), or make an emergency 911 call (iPhone-only). That's pretty limited -- and pretty secure. Pair those limitations with a good passcode policy and automatic/remote wipe and there's not much to worry about.

 

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