Two Ways to Enable iPhone Access to Enterprise Data

Given the results of this recent McAfee report about how much information is on mobile devices, if your employees are using iPhones and iPads for business and you are in management or their IT department, you might be worried. Why? Because these devices are inherently insecure. Any file left on these devices can be accessed by any application, so your corporate pricing documents could be easily obtained by an exploit or by a thief grabbing the device itself.

In an article in April’s Computerworld, John Dickson poses eight questions for corporate developers to ask before building any mobile apps.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have some way to securely build mobile applications? Or have some way to remotely wipe all the files, in case a device is stolen? And have some software that would be easy to deploy and setup quickly ?

One way of course is to run some form of remote desktop to connect back to your corporate desktop, but that may be overkill and doesn’t really take advantage of the mobile platform. A better way is to use one of two new solutions from GroupLogic of Arlington, Va. and Rover of Atlanta, Geo. that both attempt to address these issues with native mobile apps.

GroupLogic’s MobilEcho is for iPads only and will set up a secure communications link where documents can be encrypted on the iPad. It integrates with Active Directory to set up individual user’s access rights and policies, and allows you to browse, store and retrieve files on an iPad securely.

MobilEcho has a free 21-day trial here where you can download the Windows server and iPad client software. A three-client version is available online for $795, and an unlimited client version sells for $7000. The server version runs on Windows Server 2003 and 2008 along with Windows 7, Vista and XP SP3. The iPad software runs on iOS v4.2 or later on either v1 or v2 iPads.

Rover’s Retriever takes things a step further, by enabling a set of programming interfaces for a variety of mobile devices so that you can access corporate data securely with a native mobile app. Like MobilEcho, it comes in two pieces: a server-side Gateway that installs on a Windows computer and client software for iPad with iOS 3.2, iPhone and iPhone Touch running at least iOS v3.1.3 and Androids running 2.1. The Gateway comes with a variety of connectors to SQL Server, Excel spreadsheets, and SharePoint services.

As you can see from the screenshot at right, you can build native-looking iPhone/iPad apps complete with menus and embedded logic quickly and easily, and users can navigate these menus, pinch and swipe to zoom in and out to obtain reports that are securely stored on the mobile device. You define what kind of information can be published to the mobile devices, who has access rights through Active Directory, and what kinds of views that the mobile users will see on their phones and tablets. Like GroupLogic’s app, information is transmitted and stored securely.

Rover Gateway runs on Windows 7, Server 2003 R2 and Server 2008. It is available now. Pricing starts at $300 per year per user for unlimited connector apps, with quantity discounts available and significantly lower prices on single connector apps.

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