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Power your mobile strategy with a cloud

Bill Claybrook | March 21, 2012
Using a private cloud to handle back-end infrastructure tasks for your mobile workforce is the way to go.

Deacon says that many companies do not allow access to back-office data across the Internet. Access to secured data with smartphones or tablets should be done via a VPN. Richard Peltz says that agents at Marcus-Millichap use iPhones or iPads through a secured login or VPN residing on the iPhone.

BYOD also opens up a whole can of worms with respect to security, says Pemmaraju. "The question is how do you make sure that these apps are secure and, when they get downloaded to the device, that they don't accidentally get lost or get into the wrong hands?" A hacker could grab the app itself as it's being downloaded to the device, or intercept just the data going back and forth between the cloud and the device.

All of this has to be centrally administered, managed and provisioned. "This is where the mobile cloud comes in," Pemmaraju says.

"The usability group wants to make it easier for people to use the phone, while the security folks want to make it more difficult," says Eric Miller, CIO at Erie Insurance.

At Marcus & Millichap, with over 80 offices and 1,200 agents and brokers, Peltz says that the firm does not allow across-the-board access to corporate databases. Agents can access secured data -- inventory, buildings for sale, research reports, etc. -- via a Cisco VPN and by using the Web browser on their tablet, computer or phone. Access through a browser gets agents to an application that provides a view of the inventory database.

Registered clients can also search inventory -- via Safari or Firefox -- from the client-login area of Marcus & Millichap's website, says Peltz.

As of now, however, Marcus & Millichap does not allow remote users to change data, only view it. "The reason for this is policy -- a regional manager has to approve changes" to status, such as a piece of property going from being for sale to being under contract, he explains.

Another tool for remote users is an iPhone/Android app. But this app doesn't allow remote users to even view inventory; it's an email mechanism only. "The iPhone/Android app has no secure layers," Peltz says. "It is basically just out there to allow communication with loan originators and other agents via text messages or email."

The iPhone/Android app will be replaced later this year with a Web-based application. "This new interface will allow inventory access as well as access to other secured databases," Peltz explains.

For his part, Erie Insurance's Miller says that mobile phone users -- agents, claims adjusters and Erie policy holders -- have to authenticate themselves by completing the "first notice of loss" iPhone application. agents, claims adjustor, or any Erie policy holder.


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