Merging iPhone and Business? There is an App for That

Array Networks' app for the iPhone lets business users connect directly to their desktop PCs from the iPhone

A new app is available for the iPhone which could enable the popular smartphone to integrate smoothly with business networks. Array Networks has developed an iPhone app that enables business users to connect with its Desktop Direct appliance.

While the iPhone has been an explosive success with consumers, businesses have been slower to embrace the device. However, it is hard even for businesses to ignore the potential uses of the iPhone, or to justify an investment in alternate mobile phones for employees when so many already possess personal iPhones.

Apple provides a variety of tools itself to enable IT administrators to deploy, configure, and manage iPhones in a corporate environment. Exchange ActiveSync, remote data wiping, configuration profiles, and over-the-air enrollment and configuration are just some of the tools available from Apple. However, none of these let users replicate the desktop experience on their iPhones.

"Consumer popularity of Apple iPhone has naturally resulted in these devices being brought into the business environment for the purpose of conducting work related tasks," said Michael Suby, Director of Stratecast (a Division of Frost & Sullivan). "While enterprises should be concerned about the security exposure foreign, non-corporate issued devices represent, the lure of enhanced employee productivity without the cost of issuing corporate-owned devices is real. This new iPhone application resolves this conflict, enabling employees to use the device that they already have handy without punching a truck-sized security hole into the corporate environment."

The logical thing seems to be to find a way to help the iPhone play nicely in a business world. For some businesses that may be easier said than done, though. Organizations fall under compliance mandates that require them to log and archive communications, and protect data. Those are difficult goals to achieve when allowing business communications and data to be transmitted to and stored on a personal smartphone that the company has no control over.

Most businesses are Microsoft-centric. The standard operating system is Windows. The standard office productivity suite is Microsoft Office. There are a variety of business productivity tools available for the iPhone, but none that can adequately emulate the desktop environment or leverage all of the software that users are accustomed to working with.

The Desktop Direct iPhone client app from Array Networks resolves those issues by providing a remote desktop connection from the iPhone directly to the user's desktop. There is no need for any iPhone app version or equivalent for the software on the PC because the Desktop Direct app is simply providing a portal to the actual desktop.

Array Networks approach with the Desktop Direct iPhone client also resolves many of the security and compliance issues. The data and communications are simply viewed from the iPhone. Nothing is ever actually transmitted to, or stored on the iPhone. Since all of the data and communications remain on the internal network it is easier for the organization to manage security and compliance.

"We are excited to provide enterprise users with iPhone application that will appeal to both users and enterprises," said Michael Zhao, president and CEO of Array Networks. "Array has always been devoted to helping our customers with the newest technology. This application is a perfect example of how our DesktopDirect technology can take enterprise productivity to the next level."

I spoke last week with Lior Rapaport, product line manager at Array Networks, who told me that the new app is expected to be available in the iTunes App Store in early February, and that the Desktop Direct client iPhone app will be $5.99.

Keep in mind that the company must first invest in and deploy the Desktop Direct server on the network in order for the iPhone app to work.

Tony Bradley tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW, and can be contacted at his Facebook page.

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