How to configure iPad for business use

Apple iPad Configuration Profiles and business apps turn the popular tablet into an enterprise workhorse without compromising data security.

Consumers have largely driven the success of Apple's iPad, but the tablet can be a powerful work tool, too. With the right applications and MDM tools, IT can configure corporate or user-owned iPads for business use.

Configuring corporate-owned iPads is a little easier because IT administrators have physical access to corporate devices and can place more restrictions on them. When it comes to setting up workers' personal iPads for business use, IT can use iOS-compatible mobile device management (MDM) tools and recommend the right apps for common enterprise tasks.

Configuring mixed-use iPads

A growing number of organizations use Guided Access or Single App Mode to restrict corporate iPads to one app and disable certain capabilities. This configuration is ideal for iPads in public kiosks, retail and education scenarios where people need access to apps, but IT has to prevent unauthorized use or modification.

Configuration Profiles can turn an iPad from a consumer-friendly toy into a business-savvy workhorse.

Unfortunately, knowledge workers' needs are rarely satisfied in just one app, and it's impractical for IT to apply kiosk configurations to users' personal iPads. Instead, IT administrators have to configure employees' iPads to enable safe, productive business use without sacrificing the iPad's flexibility as a personal device.

On employee-owned iPads, admins can address business connectivity and safety concerns using iPad Configuration Profiles and other MDM tools. MDM tools help mitigate security risks because they let IT configure passcode, device, application, iCloud, AirPlay and AirPrint restrictions, and they help detect noncompliance or abuse. Additionally, IT can configure trustworthy iPads with Wi-Fi, virtual private network, email and calendar settings and credentials. And Configuration Profiles can also turn an iPad from a consumer-friendly toy into a business-savvy workhorse.

Apple iPads for knowledge workers

Every user has different needs, but feedback from those who have successfully put their BYO iPads to work suggest the following apps are common:

Corporate mail: Every iPad comes with Apple's Mail, Calendar and Contacts apps. Some companies deploy Exchange ActiveSync, CalDAV calendaring, and CardDAV contact sync profiles to configure these native apps for business. For employers that prefer to install a more secure enterprise mail app, there are options such as Good for Enterprise and Nitrodesk TouchDown Enterprise that workers can download for free from Apple's App Store. IT can then activate and configure the apps, which provide safer storage for business data, as well as some features not found in Apple's consumer-grade native apps, such as more flexible sort and filter options, plus corporate directory access.

Corporate messaging: Similarly, some workers use Apple's Messages and FaceTime apps to communicate with colleagues, but employers may prefer to deploy business-focused unified communications apps, such as IBM Sametime, Avaya Messaging, Good Connect or Cisco Jabber. Smaller companies without enterprise voice-over-IP infrastructure may still consider consumer-grade apps such as Google Voice, Skype and Yahoo Messenger to enable lower-cost IP-based voice, chat and video communication over Wi-Fi.

Office apps: Most knowledge workers purchase App Store apps for document, presentation and spreadsheet capabilities that mirror those found in the Microsoft Office desktop apps. Many iPad users start with Apple's iWork suite, but there are other alternatives to Microsoft Office, including Quickoffice, Office2 and FileMaker Go. Office app capabilities vary quite a bit -- especially editing and markup features -- so iPad users often try a few before they find one that fits their needs.

File sharing: Apps for document, presentation and spreadsheet editing are pointless without an easy way to move and synchronize those business files. Workers can use iCloud to store and sync iWork files, but companies may want a secure, general-purpose file-sharing app for iPad users, such as Box, SugarSync, Dropbox or Google Drive. Companies that want IT to have control over document delivery with secure on-device or offline document storage should consider apps such as AirWatch Secure Content Locker, IBM's MaaS360 Secure Document Sharing or Good Share.

Virtual desktop: There are apps that turn the iPad into a remote display with integrated keyboard and pointing capabilities, connected remotely to a company-managed (sometimes virtual) desktop. For example, Citrix Receiver, GoToMyPC, VMware Horizon View, Oracle Virtual Desktop, LogMeIn and OnLive Desktop all let iPad users interact with enterprise desktops and files. But virtual desktops won't help users who need offline access to business apps or files.

Business productivity apps: Many iPad users install apps designed to boost productivity such as speech-to-text converter Dragon Dictation, fax receiver eFax, document scanner Genius Scan and note-taking apps such as Note Taker and Evernote.

In addition to the iPad apps that are available in the App Store,employers may want to develop and deploy their own enterprise apps to deliver new mobile business functionality or enable iPad access to legacy enterprise services.

This was first published in January 2014

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