Security Shootout: PlayBook, iPad, Android

RIM PlayBook and Apple iPad are ready for primetime, says a mobile management vendor. What about Android tablets? Fuggetaboutit.

Fri, June 10, 2011

CIO — By now, CIOs everywhere have felt at least a little pressure to bring new-fangled tablets to the enterprise: Apple (AAPL) iPads, BlackBerry PlayBooks, even Android machines. But many claim security on tablets remains woefully immature—or is it?

BoxTone, a mobile device management vendor, says security concerns over iPads and PlayBooks can be a bugaboo. And because there are so many flavors of the Android OS, those tablets in particular lack critical enterprise security features.

The debate over tablet security, especially on the iPad, rages on even within the same industry. Earlier this year, Sharon Finney, corporate data security officer at Adventist Health System (AHS), a not-for-profit Protestant healthcare provider with 44 hospitals across 10 states, described to her "sandbox" network approach for dealing with iPad's security shortcomings.

Late last year, CIO Dick Escue of RehabCare, which operates 35 acute care hospitals and rehab facilities, and outsources therapists around the country, told that iPad security was ready for primetime. "There's this myth IT people perpetuate that these Apple devices can't work in the enterprise," he says.

BoxTone, which manages 850,000 smartphones and tablets in the enterprise, sees tablets gaining ground in the enterprise in three main markets: healthcare, retail and field services. Sixteen months ago tablets weren't something BoxTone really dealt with, "but by the end of this year they'll account for half of our business," says Brian Reed, vice president of products at BoxTone.

So what about the security of the three major tablet platforms? BoxTone breaks down each:

BlackBerry PlayBook: Security Stalwart

Many of BoxTone's new deals will have the PlayBook as the centerpiece, says Reed. BoxTone's installed customer base consists mainly of BlackBerry shops eyeing the PlayBook as a natural extension in their environment.

BoxTone ranks the PlayBook and iPas as the most secure, enterprise-ready tablets on the market today. The PlayBook attaches itself to the enterprise through the BlackBerry, thus instantly inherit all of BlackBerry's legendary security and control.

BlackBerry has more than 400 settable policies, whereas iPhone has 250. IT organizations are able to manage BlackBerries and PlayBooks (and, unlike the iPad, the apps that run on them) using RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Apple iPad: Pros and Cons

In terms of security, BoxTone contends that the iPad is enterprise-ready because it covers security's essentials.

"If you really distill down a device's enterprise readiness, it's about protecting against loss," says Dan Dearing, group director of mobile security strategies at BoxTone. "This means three things: Can the device be encrypted? Does the device have a passcode on it that's settable via policy such that you can restrict access? Can you wipe the device in the event that it gets lost?"

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