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How can your enterprise support mobile email access?

Granting mobile email access is easy. Here is a rundown of the options available.

Mobile devices are popular simply because they are always connected and completely wireless -- and they provide access to email wherever and whenever needed. Email access is the first time many companies address issues with mobility. The good news is that email access to network systems is easy to grant. Both Apple's iOS and Google's Android support multiple email formats but with a specific focus on:

The two older formats on the list, POP3/SMTP and IMAP4 provide access only to email. This works great for smaller companies but should be avoided in larger environments. In particular, POP3 downloads the email message and does not leave a copy on the server, which creates complications when syncing email between desktop and mobile devices.

The bottom three options, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365 and Google Apps provide richer experiences that provide more effective security and synchronization. Exchange has had support for mobile devices since 1999 through a service called ActiveSync. Apple has licensed and supported ActiveSync since introducing the first iPhone in 2007. ActiveSync provides a function for leveraging network security to synchronize email, contacts and calendar services.

A second function that Exchange offers is policy enforcement. Mobile policies are tools you can use for any device that is granted access to Exchange Personal Information Manager (PIM) data. The policies range from enforcing the length of a mailbox password, to permitting Bluetooth to be enabled on a device, to setting whether the device should be remotely wiped. The third option is useful for devices that have been stolen.

Microsoft Office 365 also supports similar policy and PIM functions, and is now extending what can be accomplished with mobile devices beyond email and calendar tools. Microsoft has made mobile a top priority for client-facing applications, and this is clearly demonstrated with Office 365. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook now all have dedicated mobile apps that run securely on Android, Apple and Windows devices.

Very much like Office 365, Google's equivalent enterprise tool, Google Apps, provides similar access to productivity tools. The goal from each company is to make it easy for enterprises to rapidly provide high-value apps while also maintaining a first-level set of security and policy enforcement features.

Next Steps

Providing secure email access

Authenticating email access

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