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Case study: Land Securities enables access to corporate data via employee-owned mobiles

Jenny Williams

Retail estate investment firm Land Securities has deployed software to provide employees with access to its corporate network and applications via personal mobile devices.

The company's IT helpdesk is using MobileIron's virtual smartphone platform to provision corporate-owned and personal Research in Motion (RIM) Blackberry and Apple iPhone devices without having to use two separate consoles for device management.

Graham Gibbs, infrastructure project manager at Land Securities, said, "With the use of personal devices at work becoming popular, the company marketing division wanted to utilise Apple's iPad devices for property brochures. The IS department had to be ahead of the game. If momentum grew, we needed to be prepared."

MobileIron's virtual smartphone platform provides mobile users with control over network access and applications, such as Microsoft Sharepoint and corporate e-mail accounts. Land Securities has deployed the software to 60 Apple iPhone users and 25 iPads.

The firm's criteria for procurement of software included data, voice and text reporting analytics, encryption over the air and on the device, Microsoft Active Directory integration, network access control, remote lock and wipe, self-service enrolment, application support and zero-touch management.

Gibbs said the software provides a similar service to RIM's Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES).

"Our goal was to replicate a Blackberry as much as possible in terms of creating a similar experience with an iPhone and an iPad. In addition to delivering a simple user experience, it meant that if the device did go missing we could try to locate it as well as getting rid of corporate data very quickly," he said.

"Rather than sandboxing into another app to access e-mails, e-mails are pumped into a mail client that is separate from personal e-mails,"

The company previously had difficulty managing smartphone devices.

"Personal data could be wiped if devices went missing but we needed to do regular back-ups and some users lacked security codes for log-ons. With MobileIron, if we need to wipe a device, we can default back to factory settings or just remove the corporate element," said Gibbs.

The IT department set flexible policy boundaries via an application developed in-house for MobileIron, which manages device security settings according to the user's job role and mobile platform.

Gibbs hopes to completely move away from RIM's BES.

"We want to move to a single console but can't get away from initial configuration on BES for Blackberry devices at the moment. It's not confirmed whether we'll always need BES. There's the possibility of going through Blackberry Express."

The company may introduce Google Android devices to its mobile strategy in the future.

Gibbs said, "We don't have many employees using those devices personally yet. We also feel Android devices are too much of a risk. On a corporate level, apps can be infected with viruses. Once that's overcome, we'll look to test and develop on other platforms."

The company has also moved the majority (95%) of its estate onto thin-client devices. Land Securities started the proof of concept for desktop virtualisation when the Icelandic volcano erupted in 2010.

"Employees were stuck all over Europe and couldn't get into the office," said Gibbs. "It was a fantastic time to be able to give people access to desktops while on holiday, using an internet cafe and a secure token and password," he said.

"The next move will be the ability for staff to come in with their own laptops. We're about 18 months away from that."

He added that some work will be needed to improve the Wi-Fi infrastructure as well as upgrading the virtual desktop to allow it to integrate with more devices.

"For example, our Juniper network firewall solution doesn't currently support Apple Macs," he said.


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