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How IT should prep for iOS 8

Ryan Faas | Sept. 18, 2014
Although Apple has incrementally improved business and enterprise functions with every iOS release, three releases were particularly significant for business users and the IT professionals that support them: iOS 2 (called iPhone OS 2 at the time), which introduced support for Exchange ActiveSync and configuration profiles; iOS 4, which introduced Apple's mobile management and app encryption APIs and helped launch the MDM/EMM industry; and last year's iOS 7, which ratcheted up enterprise security and management capabilities.

Although Apple has incrementally improved business and enterprise functions with every iOS release, three releases were particularly significant for business users and the IT professionals that support them: iOS 2 (called iPhone OS 2 at the time), which introduced support for Exchange ActiveSync and configuration profiles; iOS 4, which introduced Apple's mobile management and app encryption APIs and helped launch the MDM/EMM industry; and last year's iOS 7, which ratcheted up enterprise security and management capabilities.

iOS 8 isn't as paradigm shifting as those releases. Most new features are aimed more at consumers than business users or enterprise IT. HealthKit, HomeKit, Handoff and other Continuity features that link iOS devices and Macs, and even the upcoming Apple Pay, are decidedly consumer-oriented.

But that doesn't mean IT departments can easily write off iOS 8 as a welcome, but unimportant update.

Apple's new mobile OS presents several challenges (and opportunities) to IT shops as well as enterprise app developers. Here's what IT departments should keep in mind as Apple launches iOS 8 later today and rolls out the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on Friday.

Privacy and data protections

One of the challenges for IT involves many of those new consumer-focused features. With the introduction of HealthKit, HomeKit and Apple Pay, iPhones will become even more personal devices for users. With personal health information, which may included medical information protected by privacy laws; the ability to activate smart devices at home, including opening doors with smart locks; and a burgeoning mobile payment system, IT shops should revisit their mobility and BYOD policies to ensure that those policies spell out what user data must remain private from IT and support staff.

This is something that involves policy issues as well as technical and user education components, especially when it comes to health information. Policy updates should be coordinated with human resources and legal teams to ensure compliance with other employee policies as well as federal, state and local laws.

HR needs to be closely involved if an organization has an employee wellness program that uses mobile apps and/or fitness tracking devices that integrate data with HealthKit or, perhaps more significantly, pull data from HealthKit. The goal is to ensure that policy and technical safeguards are in place and may involve discussions with benefit coordinators, insurers and outside companies. Since employee participation in these programs is now a bargaining chip when it comes to health insurance costs, a third-party company that collects or manages data for a wellness program should be involved.

Managed apps, accounts, domains and ebooks

On a technical level, Apple's pseudo-containerization approach, introduced in iOS 7 and expanded in iOS 8, should serve to separate user-installed HealthKit- and HomeKit-capable apps. This system, often referred to as "managed open-in," creates a distinction between apps a user installs from the App Store and those installed by IT using enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions or by users through an enterprise app store. Apps installed by EMM or an enterprise app store are designated as managed apps. Even though the user sees no apparent difference, rules can be configured that allow managed apps to only share information with other managed apps; unmanaged apps may be blocked from sharing data for security reasons.

 

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