When the CEO Gives iPads to All: One CIO's Story

What happens when your CEO decides to give iPads to thousands of employees as a surprise reward? One CIO who had to make it happen shares his advice.

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Wed, January 26, 2011
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Setup Challenge Demanded Outside Help

Ballal, though, faced a bigger question: What will happen after employees got a hold of the iPad? Many will no doubt experience the "five-day euphoria," says Jeff Letasse, vice president of IT at Conceptus, a medical manufacturer that rolled out iPads to sales people. That is, they simply won't be able to put the darn thing down. They will spend the first few days downloading apps, music, photos — and, yes, connecting to the company network to get e-mail. Fearing the number of calls would swamp the help desk, Ballal quickly searched for a mobile management solution that would let employees connect to the network on their own. Startup vendors promised that they could make it easy for employees to integrate the iPad without the help desk, but Ballal dug deeper and found many of their promises wanting.

Then he found MobileIron, and was impressed with the vendor's simple instructions for employees to set up their iPads. "People want to do self-service, but you have to give them documentation that they can follow, written at the third- or fourth-grade level with a minimal number of steps," Ballal says. MobileIron, Microsoft (MSFT) and KLA-Tencor worked together to configure Active Sync and Active Directory in a way that allowed KLA-Tencor's Active Directory talk to MobileIron software. Just three weeks after the CEO's announcement, MobileIron was up and running. Shortly after, KLA-Tencor employees began receiving their iPads.

MobileIron's directions sent employees to a portal where they could register their iPads and receive a certificate on the device. Then they could connect to the company network; the certificate authenticates the device and gives KLA-Tencor the ability to wipe the device remotely. So far, 60 percent of employees have used MobileIron to connect to the company network, whereas other employees chose to keep the iPad a personal device or give it to their children or friends..

Security Concerns

Ballal had a few advantages in his iPad rollout. For starters, the company had been supporting iPhones for years, and thus had already worked through many of the technical hoops of the iOS platform. Mobile policies governing passwords and other requirements, for instance, were already in place. The main IT job was to test KLA-Tencor's Web apps on the iPad.

"We had learned the lessons of the iPhone," Ballal says, "and the iPad is just a big iPhone."

While this may be technically true, though, employees use the iPad differently than their iPhones — and this will surely impact other core IT areas such as security. Case in point: KLA-Tencor's employees in sales and marketing wanted to do more work on their iPads, which meant more data might find its way on the device.

But KLA-Tencor had another solution that would keep iPad data safely locked away: desktop virtualization, whereby all critical data resides on a server. Ballal simply put a Citrix-based virtual desktop on the iPad for employees that needed it, which numbered some 5 percent of the total workforce.

Desktop virtualization is still very new, and many CIOS rolling out iPads probably don't have a solution deployed yet. "You don't need virtual desktops for iPads," Ballal says, "but if you want to take iPad security to the next level, then you need to get to the virtual desktop."

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com.

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