Bank Adds Security Twist to Cloud Computing

The more Needham Bank encourages employees to access systems remotely via mobile devices, the more it has to tighten security.

The company was an early adopter of extending iPhones to staff and uses tablets to communicate to execs and board members. To manage the stresses and security concerns these moves created, the $1.8 billion-asset bank is building what it calls a private cloud, which it's protecting partly with a vendor's mobility security system.

Cloud computing, which means handling tasks through remotely connected servers, is a term frequently associated with outsourcing.

Needham's private cloud is managed internally, providing "the best of both worlds," says James Gordon, vice president of information technology for Needham. "It lets the critical data stay internal and provides access" from remote locations.

"As far as outsourcing my data management and backups to [an external cloud provider], the comfort level isn't there," he says. "But we want to run the software in-house and have a cloud that extends to users wherever they are."

To support this project, Needham has licensed technology from MobileIron. The vendor provides a centralized Web-based console for inventory and (mobile technology) asset management, device configuration, encryption, lockdown security, password enforcement, remote lock and wipe and end-user self service.

"Before, people would have to come into an office if they needed to get a basic task done," Gordon says. "Now they can work from anywhere."

MobileIron is also enabling easier cloud connectivity for the products it already sells. It recently finished development on the MobileIron Connected Cloud, which enables companies to secure corporate data on mobile devices. Connected Cloud works by integrating with on-premise servers, such as ActiveSync server and corporate directories.

"If you don't tie your overall mobile endpoint management system to the overall infrastructure, there's not way that a cloud-based solution can be secure," says Sean Ginevan, a manager at MobileIron.

The tech company says it has a market opening for Connected Cloud with banks and other businesses that are moving away from a strategy of mandating which hardware employees use.

In the mobile age, banks and other companies will give their staff a choice of tools that they are comfortable with – an employee who does not want a BlackBerry could instead pick up an iPhone or iPad without causing problems for bank's tech staff, MobileIron says.

Beyond referencing an unnamed regional bank, MobileIron did not disclose bank users of the new product, and Needham did not comment on whether it plans to deploy the new MobileIron cloud-based product.

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