Your device, your data: Don't let IT screw up your iPhone or iPad

Even if your company wipes your device, you don't have to lose any of your precious info

You hear it a lot: IT managers wondering how to safeguard corporate data and access from all those wild and woolly users seeking to work with their iPhones, iPads, and Android devices for email, calendaring, even document editing. I hear it a lot, too, and there's plenty of solid advice for safe BYOD practices for IT to follow.

But what about users? Well, I hear their fears, too -- namely, that IT will access or destroy their private data, from contacts to songs on their mobile devices. Much less advice is available for users to safeguard their part of the BYOD equation, so I've put together this guide on how to keep IT from screwing up your BYOD mobile device.

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I focus here on iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad because Apple provides a much better set of user protections, such as it does for corporate devices. But where the techniques apply to Android as well, I let you know.

iTunes Backup with encryption is your best defense for a device wipe
The big fear is a device wipe by IT if a device is lost or stolen or when you leave the company. Though IT can selectively wipe corporate apps and their data from your device, including data from Exchange accounts, many IT shops don't know that -- or want to be "extra safe" and wipe it all.

Apple has a very simple way to keep a wipe from destroying your data: iTunes Backup. But Apple encourages people to instead use iCloud Backup, which doesn't store as much, so you won't get everything back when you restore from a wiped device.

iCloud Backup is handy because the backup happens even when you're not in range of your computer running iTunes. (You still need a Wi-Fi Internet connection for iCloud Backup to do its nightly automated backup.) But it doesn't back up all your personal files or your passwords. It does back up app settings, so when you redownload wiped apps from the App Store, your settings are restored as well.

But iTunes Backup backs up all your files and your apps, along with your settings and -- if you've enabled encrypted backup in iTunes -- your passwords. (It works both via direct USB connection and via Wi-Fi, as long as iTunes is running and your device is plugged in.) When you restore a wiped iPhone or iPad from your iTunes backup, you get 99 percent of your environment back the way it was. In iCloud Backup, it's more like 70 percent.

Say you have an app, song, podcast, or other item no longer available from the App Store. iTunes Backup will have it, but not iCloud Backup. And iTunes Backup alone will have music and videos you didn't get from the iTunes Store; iCloud Backup restores only items you purchased from Apple.

If you use iTunes Backup with encryption enabled, you can restore your wiped device to where it was before the wipe, minus anything saved since the last backup. Sadly, Apple doesn't let you use both iTunes Backup and iCloud Backup, which would let you perform at least some interim backup when on the road.

Of course, IT doesn't like iTunes Backup because corporate data is backed up, too. But as I previously mentioned, IT has a defense: iOS lets mobile management vendors wipe only the contents of corporate-provisioned apps, as well as those corporate-provisioned apps themselves. A smart IT organization wouldn't need to resort to a full wipe anyhow.

As for company files that may be in your personal apps and thus backed up to iTunes Backup: Oh well. That's no different than files you have on your home PC from emails, thumb drives, or whatever. The company is no more -- and probably less so -- at risk from your iPhone or iPad than it is from your home PC or Mac, which it can't wipe.

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