SAP's enterprise app store running on an iPad.
The app store—that staple of consumer tablets and smartphones—is making a transition to the business market. SAP and the University of Sydney are two organisations that have discovered security and other benefits to setting up internal app stores to manage software installed to their networks’ devices.
With employees increasingly wanting to bring consumer apps into the workplace, app stores are a tool enterprises can use to take control of the software downloaded and installed on company hardware, according to Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda. Like BYOD, IT managers should not ignore the “bring your own application” trend, he said.
“If you have your own app store, you can control the environment,” Gedda said. Organisations can provide the apps that employees want, but have greater assurance that the apps installed are secure and integrate properly with their IT environment, he said.
Properly managing an app store does require devoting resources, Gedda said. “It’s a trade-off between the complexity of managing that and the benefits you get to your organisation.” Even after the app store is set up, businesses need to “keep on top of the new apps that are coming out” and survey demand among users, he said.
SAP has developed an app store that uses mobile device management to push apps and updates to wireless devices. The store has about 110 apps -- developed by SAP, partners and third parties -- including apps that are available on public app stores like Apple iTunes or Android Marketplace. In addition to using the store for its own employees, SAP is trying to sell the concept to its enterprise customers.
The benefit of the app store is that it provides SAP control over what applications can be installed on mobile devices, said SAP head of mobile solutions, Andrew Fox. For example, SAP does not allow Dropbox but has a more secure internal app dubbed “SAP box” with the same functions, he said.
The store also gives SAP control over apps’ security settings, Fox said. Security is critical because “we run our business off mobile devices. Every one of our senior managers and executives has access to large amounts of corporate data” that are “incredibly sensitive.”