Soon after the launch of Apple’s iPad in 2009, it became clear that the tablet form factor had applications in business. Like many organisations, however, law firm Maclay Murray & Spens waited until the launch of BlackBerry’s PlayBook last year before deciding on a tablet strategy.
“We thought it could be something that addressed some of the usability issues that people have with BlackBerry, but still give us the same security model,” recalls director of IT Crawford Hawley-Groat.
Unfortunately, the PlayBook failed to live up to expectations. “We took a couple of PlayBooks on trial, so I took one home and tried to get it to bridge with my BlackBerry and it didn’t work terribly well; it wasn’t seamless,” says Hawley-Groat. “Were we to roll it out to lawyers, it would have been carnage.”
The firm therefore looked for a system with which to manage company-issued iPads. “We tried Good, but we found that there was a 4,000-character limit on emails,” he explains. “Our CEO hit that limit doing some work on the train, which went down like a lead balloon.”
Another issue was that Good did not support PGP, the firm’s favoured encryption protocol. Hawley-Groat took this as a sign that the firm would be beholden to Good in its future technology choices. “Given the rate that this [technology] is going to develop, we thought that this wasn’t the way to go,” he says.
Instead, he opted for MobileIron. Rather than creating a secure partition, Mobile Iron’s system works by managing security certificates and profiles. This prevents the user from breaking security policy without interfering with the user experience, Hawley- Groat says. It also allows the firm to remotely wipe devices if they are lost or stolen.
It was only after the MDM infrastructure to support company-bought iPads was in place that the firm decided to introduce BYOD. Hawley-Groat observes that once MobileIron is installed on an employee’s smartphone, it is no more or less secure than a company-issued device.
The scheme has proved popular, he says, with many employees seeking to replace their firm-issued BlackBerrys with their own iPhones (“We haven’t seen a big pick-up in Android devices,” he says).
Hawley-Groat contends that there have been tangible business benefits from the scheme. “Employees don’t want to carry multiple devices around with them, so they will always choose to carry their personal device with them. And because they’ve got corporate email being sent to that device, they do far more work for the organisation.
The overall mobile strategy is not cheaper than its previous, BlackBerry-only approach, however. “Apple devices are more expensive, so any saving in the number of devices that we issue thanks to BYOD will be offset by the cost of those we are still buying.”
For Hawley-Groat, an important benefit has been to the IT department’s standing in the organisation. “We have found that everybody is very enthusiastic and actually thinks IT are doing a great job,” he says. “It’s nice to be able to give your user community something they like and think is beneficial.”