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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.

In addition to designating apps as managed, user accounts (like email accounts) can also be designated as managed when created or configured through EMM enrollment. Managed accounts can be prevented from transferring content into unmanaged accounts or apps. With iOS 8 comes the concept of managed domains, in which EMM can be used to designate domains that live under similar restrictions.

iOS 8 also adds managed ebooks, allowing organizations to push out or make available ebooks to their employees — including PDFs and ePUB files — with certain features like note and highlight sync between devices disabled and managed ebooks culled from device backups. That can be useful for certain types of company documents like various policies, procedures or instructions.

Some third-party EMM solutions offer full-featured containerization for apps and content that goes beyond the basic, though generally effective, options Apple offers. Talk to your EMM vendor (or would-be EMM vendor) about such options.

Extensions and data sharing

One of the nice things until now about iOS from a data security perspective has been that apps are largely self-contained and don't share a single file system. Apple's limited approach to allowing data transfers between apps has been a challenge for users trying to develop multi-app workflows, but it imposed a level of content management.

iOS 8 changes that significantly. The use of extensions allows apps to inject functionality into other installed apps and even into the OS itself. Third-party keyboards and photo filter extensions have gotten the most attention among users since iOS 8 was unveiled in June. But there are a range of extension types that aid data sharing between apps, across cloud or network storage or provide access to documents or content created by other apps.

Apple's developer site lists seven kinds of iOS 8 extensions, four of which IT departments should focus on as ways data could migrate across a device and third-party services in ways that were either impossible or unwieldy in earlier iOS releases. Those four extension types are:

  • Share: Users can share content via social networks and other file and content sharing services.
  • Developers create or designate a storage location that can be accessed by other apps, a location that can include cloud or network storage.
  • Document Picker: Apps can access and edit documents and content created by other apps. This means that a single document can be edited in one place by multiple apps without having to be copied or imported into each app.
  • Custom Actions: Developers create custom action buttons for the iOS 8 Action Sheet that include a variety of tasks like applying a watermark to documents, translating text or creating a wish list. The key feature here is that custom actions might be able to link apps and content to off-device third-party services like Google Translate.


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