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.
"We rely on the security of the phone to allow people to get into the app, but then you have to authenticate yourself against our back-end system," he says.
"During the design of apps we always assume that a phone can be lost," and they keep in mind what would be lost in case someone cracks the encryption. "We continually have ongoing discussions with our usability group about this," he 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."
Bill Claybrook is an analyst with over 30 years of experience in the computer industry, and has specialties in Linux, open source, virtualization and cloud computing. He is president of New River Marketing Research in Concord, Mass., and holds a PhD in computer science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Read more about cloud computing in Computerworld's Cloud Computing Topic Center.