Securing business data on employee-owned devices like the iPhone and iPad is one of the biggest challenges for IT departments when it comes to operating bring your own device (BYOD) programs. The mobile device management (MDM) approach taken by most companies is an excellent starting point because it aims to make devices themselves more secure. Unfortunately, it also tends to impose limits on what workers can do with an iPhone or iPad that they bought and paid for out of their own pockets.
Another approach to the challenge is to carve out a specific niche of secure storage on each employee-owned devices. Good Technology has always offered this mechanism for securing business emails and related technologies like shared contacts and calendars. This week, Good took that concept and made it available to iOS developers in a product called Good Dynamics.
Good’s products use industry standard encryption to secure business content. The company also offers an MDM service that plugs into the MDM architecture that Apple introduced in iOS 4 and expanded in iOS 5. This combination allows companies to secure business data on the device as well as the ability to apply any standard iOS management options. Like all iOS MDM solutions, Good allows business data to be wiped in the event that a device is lost or stolen. If an employee leaves the company, however, Good can wipe business data from that person’s iPhone or iPad without wiping the entire device.
This approach has multiple advantages, but the most important is that it allows organizations to scale back on whole-device restrictions. Since a separate passcode is needed to open any of Good’s apps and access business data, organizations don’t need to enforce complex passcode policies to unlock an iPhone or iPad. That can, and should, be encouraged but since unlocking the device doesn’t unlock any business data, IT departments can consider relaxing overall device security. This strategy has made Good’s initial products a good fit (pardon the pun) for BYOD programs involving iOS devices as well as other platforms like Android.
As native business apps have made gains for accomplishing a range of tasks on iOS and other platforms, there has been an increased amount of business data being stored by these apps on user devices. Most apps don’t use a secure storage mechanism for data, however. For some developers building reliable encryption for on-device data is too big a hurdle to consider. For others, there may not be enough return on the investment to create an encrypted data store.
Good Dynamics offers a solution for both developers and IT professionals. Good has built an SDK library that can easily be added to third-party apps using Xcode. As Herve Danzelaud, Good’s Vice President of Business Development, told me recently, the SDK is simple and flexible enough that one of Good’s partners was able to implement Good Dynamics features while on a flight from New York to California. That’s a pretty good testament to Good making the process fairly easy and painless.
While encrypting stored data is a big part of what Good Dynamics is about, its SDK doesn’t stop there. It also allows developers to build management options into their apps. Those options can then be centrally managed from Good’s MDM console. This actually extends past Apple’s MDM framework, which doesn’t offer control over third-party apps running on an iOS device.
The Good Dynamics SDK can be implemented in public apps available through the App Store as well as in private apps developed by companies for purely internal distribution and use. Good has been working with several partners to implement the technology in business-oriented public apps. The most notable being Good’s partnership with cloud storage provider Box. The result of this partnership is an app that can be managed to ensure cloud data is secured on the device and can be limited in terms of how that data is shared with others (if sharing is allowed at all).
Given the how commonplace personal devices are becoming in the workplace, Good Dynamics offers a viable solution to many challenges. The ultimate effectiveness will come down to how broadly the platform is implemented by third-party developers. Even if just a handful of companies that provide core business functionality sign on, Good Dynamics will have the potential to make an impact on mobile devices in the enterprise, but more apps based around the platform will certainly drive interest and adoption.