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What IT needs to know about Apple's iOS 8 enterprise features

The iPhone 6 brings with it new iOS 8 enterprise features, but they may not be everything IT pros wanted. Find out what's new and why some aren't impressed.

IT pros have been asking for more iOS management features, and with the release of the iPhone 6, Apple proved it has been listening -- sort of.

When Apple announced iOS 8 in June 2014, IT hearts were aflutter with expectations of new features for managing iOS devices in enterprise environments. Now that the new operating system is here, opinions are mixed. Apple has added lots of new security features, including password protection for certain applications and options to make mobile device management (MDM) easier. These new features don't go far enough for some IT professionals, however, and Apple hasn't made integration into Windows environments any easier.

What's new in iOS 8 for business users and IT pros?

Included in iOS 8 are new productivity and management capabilities for Apple devices in the enterprise. Apple has opened its APIs up to third-party developers. Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, Notes and Messages can be password-protected. And Secure Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions users can encrypt email messages.

Along with making those changes, Apple has made it so IT can push PDFs and iBooks to users' devices through MDM tools and control which apps are used as defaults. IT can also deploy a new user interface for easier MDM enrollment. Overall, Apple intended to provide IT with more management options without burdening employees.

In addition, iOS 8 also includes new Wi-Fi privacy improvements like obfuscation of past Wi-Fi connections, Wi-Fi access point location privacy and random MAC addresses while scanning for wireless networks.

What's new with iCloud in iOS 8?

Apple introduced iCloud Drive, a consumer cloud storage service similar to Dropbox and others, with iOS 8. However, iCloud Drive is not intended as an enterprise file sync and storage service because it does not come with IT controls.

Furthermore, Apple intends to use iCloud Drive and its AirDrop service to provide continuity between OS X and iOS. Macs running OS X Yosemite and mobile devices with iOS 8 can transfer files from one to the other with AirDrop and sync files with iCloud Drive. Previously, AirDrop only worked for transferring files between mobile devices or between Macs, but never from Mac to mobile or vice versa.

How should IT pros get ready for iOS 8?

Organizations should prepare for iOS 8 by testing their apps to make sure they work with the new OS -- and that those apps scale well on the larger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus hardware. Apple has made changes to its handling of Exchange ActiveSync, so perform testing to ensure email compatibility on iOS 8 devices.

Does iOS 8 live up to IT pros' expectations?

For some, yes, iOS 8's new enterprise features are enough to warrant welcoming it with open arms. The additions of security improvements such as passcode protection, open APIs for Touch ID and content management features will be especially helpful.

Others are not quite as enthusiastic about iOS 8. This crowd argues that Apple didn't go nearly far enough in enabling admins to integrate iOS devices into Windows environments. Apple's closed ecosystem may work against it with potential customers that rely heavily on Windows and don't want to bother with iOS integration. At the same time, iCloud Drive may present the same problems other consumer cloud storage services have in terms of securing corporate data.

Dig Deeper on Apple iOS in the enterprise

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Is iOS 8 enterprise-friendly enough for your organization?
For the most part, Apple does not play well with other infrastructure providers in the enterprise. However, since plenty of people love their iDevices, enterprises will over time accommodate Apple devices in some manner.
I think it will be, particularly when it comes to security and sharing data. These different 'extensions' will allow users to share and communicate data in ways that we never saw before with previous versions of iOS.
They already are in my organization.  IPhones got adopted during the great Blackberry exodus. It's not my function to manage the devices, but I hear that it can be a bit tedious in it's current state.
I think a lot of this comes down to the fact that those who want to support these technologies and have a large enough base tend to find ways to do so, even if they are not "Cult of Mac" shops. the biggest benefit to iPhone deploy strategies is that, even though there are some inconsistencies, they are far fewer than the mish-mash of Android options that have to be considered. That's not a slam against Android, I've used them for several years and found them to be quite robust systems and not too complicated to test with or manage deployments. It does, however, mean there is a smaller pool of issues to have to deal with by comparison.