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iOS 6 device management: What companies should know

September 21, 2012 05:59 AM ET

I can see this being useful for devices in healthcare settings - either as an information appliance or as an electronic patient information form.

Restrictions
Restrictions in iOS 6 can be used to limit which apps work on an iPhone or iPad.

This feature can be manually enabled via the Accessibility option under Settings>General.

No iMessage and Game Center distractions

Two feature restrictions are the ability to block the use of Apple's iMessage system. iMessage works through the Messages app in iOS and OS X. The secure messaging system functions as a pretty robust and secure alternative to text messaging and can sync entire conversations across a user's devices. Supervised devices can disable iMessage. Similarly, access to Game Center, which also functions across iOS devices and Mountain Lion Macs, can be disabled.

iBooks access and ratings

Apple's iBooks app and iBookstore can now be blocked on iOS devices. Apple has also introduced the option for content rating in the iBookstore. Similar to restrictions already in place for apps, music and video content from the iTunes Store, iBooks can block ebooks with certain content or ratings. To date, Apple has only created a restriction category listed as Erotica. If and when the company will differentiate further isn't clear.

Universal proxy settings

One challenge to implementing iOS devices, particularly in K-12 schools, has been support for proxy servers. Proxy support itself hasn't be the challenge, as iOS already offers it. The problem is that proxy settings up until now have been options set individually for each Wi-Fi network. That means that proxy server configurations in a school of office aren't applied to home or public Wi-Fi networks.

Given that some state and federal programs for K-12 schools tie funding to content filtering and that some states and districts have additional regulations and requirements for filtering, this has been a big challenge. In many cases, the regulations specify school technology as a whole, whether it's used on campus, at home or anywhere else. Schools have largely relied on VPN configurations that pass all managed iPad data through the school's network and its proxy servers. That's a cumbersome solution and one that can place additional load on a school's resources.

iOS 6 resolves the situation by allowing managed devices to have a single universal proxy configuration.

Preventing outside certificates and configuration profiles

iOS 6 also allows IT staff to block security certificates and configuration profiles (beyond those deployed by IT) from being installed on a supervised device. This means outside security certificates, including root certificates, can't be added. It also means that a user can't add a configuration profile, intentionally or by accident, that isn't from a trusted source. That promotes overall security because it helps ensure that compromised or malicious credentials can't be used to create a man-in-the-middle attack on a device or the network resources it uses.

Overall, Apple didn't deliver a huge range of new features in iOS 6, opting instead to add incremental updates for specific features while delivering on some long-standing enterprise and education customer requests. There's no radical new management system and Apple, as in the past, stayed largely out of the app management and content management arenas. There are, however, companies specializing in those areas that are doing a great job filling corporate needs: App 47, Apperian, Good, Bitzer and Accellion.

Ryan Faas is a freelance writer and technology consultant specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. He has been a Computerworld columnist since 2003 and is a frequent contributor to Peachpit.com. Faas is also the author of iPhone for Work (Apress, 2009). You can find out more about him at RyanFaas.com and follow him on Twitter (@ryanfaas).

Read more about iOS in Computerworld's iOS Topic Center.



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