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Perimeter

2/24/2011
03:23 PM
Rob Enderle
Rob Enderle
Commentary
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FileMaker For Securing iPads At Work

Rather than just saying "no" to the iPad at the office, consider this inexpensive way to secure these tablets

One of the biggest trends in business at the moment is companies using iPads instead of laptops for mobile employees -- and it's driving IT managers nuts.

As with most trendy products, starting from Windows 95 and up to the current iPad, that weren't really designed for business IT, many, if not most, companies just say "no." In fact, I've seen a lot of IT careers end over saying "no," as well as a number enhanced by finding ways to give users, line managers, and, especially, executives, what they want.

There currently are two favored methods of getting the iPad to work securely, particularly in areas like healthcare, which has always favored tablets but has extreme security requirements. The most common way to secure an iPad is by using Citrix, but one I hadn't thought about was using FileMaker -- and it could be the faster and cheaper alternative.

FileMaker is a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple and a database company. The product's primary competition is probably Microsoft Access, and you might be surprised to learn that more of its customers are on Windows than Macs. It's known for ease of use and ease of development.

FileMaker also provides an interface into SQL databases against which you can quickly and cheaply design PC interfaces. The newly released FileMaker Go for the iPad has similar capabilities, allowing a firm to create an interface quickly for an iPad for any existing SQL database like patent records. The records remain on the host server, never moving to the iPad. This last point is important because the iPad does not meet minimal security requirements, yet may not need to if the data never actually resides on the device except the current file for viewing, which isn't archived. In other words, once the current login expires, there is nothing on the device that is confidential were it to be compromised. This is the same advantage of Citrix, which basically screen-scrapes a more secure device, leaving the iPad unexposed. Citrix is more universal, but much more expensive. So if you are being pressured to provide iPad access to secure information. and if it resides in a SQL database, then consider FileMaker as an inexpensive alternative. You may find it is vastly easier to learn than having to code a native iPad client, and far cheaper than Citrix to implement. It won't work everywhere, but it could be the best Apple-sourced alternative in terms of labor and financial cost.

-- Rob Enderle is president and founder of Enderle Group. Special to Dark Reading.

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