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Mobile computing devices, more commonly known as smartphones and tablets, with popular examples being the iPhone and iPad, are a dramatic shift from traditional computing devices such as desktop and laptop PCs. In addition to iPhones and iPads running iOS, Google’s Android operating system is currently the other main player in the mobile computing device market.
Traditional computers grew out from business in to personal use as they became less expensive. Mobile devices have developed in the opposite direction, coming from personal use and growing in to the business environment.
While traditional computing platforms have the benefit of years of development and the resulting maturity, mobile computers are newer and do not have the maturity of features which can be required for smooth operation in a business environment.
Mobile computing devices have two main needs to function at Massey. The first of these is a wireless network connection and the second is an Internet connection. The latter of these is predominantly based on connectivity to and use of mobile/cloud apps.
The largest challenge with using these mobile apps is, as mentioned above, their lack of maturity when it comes to working with existing business/enterprise related services, the most important example of which is the Universities’ Internet proxy servers and firewalls. The following diagram shows how a mobile computing device connects to the Universities’ wireless networks and to the Internet:
(Figure 1 – Mobile devices and Massey’s network)
Note that not all apps require access via the Universities’ proxy server, but many do. Skype for example is a point-to-point communications service which does not use a proxy, but Facebook is a direct connection which does use the proxy.
The function of the Internet proxy and firewall are to protect the University from attack, application of University usage policies and legal requirements, and to make more efficient use of the University's internet connection.
Traditional computers and their applications predominantly understand how to access the Internet via proxy servers. Because mobile computing devices have developed around home wireless networks and mobile data connections, which do not usually have a proxy server or firewall, they have less support for these services.
Many have asked “Why isn’t there an option to just turn the firewall and proxy off?”. The short answer is, because this is a very bad idea. The longer answer is, because doing so would place the University's information services at significant risk and would not be a trivial task.
By virtue of its greater age, Apple’s iOS has greater support for proxies and firewalls. Google’s Android, being newer, has less support. However, as mobile device operating systems and apps have matured, their support for proxies and firewalls have improved. Our current estimate is that 75% of the most popular apps work under iOS and 66% work under Android. The biggest pain point for people comes down to which apps make up the 25%-33% which do not work.
ITS at Massey is working hard to ensure that mobile computing devices work as much as possible within the University's information services infrastructure.
One of the particular areas of focus for ITS is understanding why some mobile apps work from the MUStaff wireless network while not working from MUStaffPrivateEquipment and MUStudents wireless networks. It is ITS’ intention that, where appropriate, mobile apps work the same regardless of which wireless network a device is connected to.
For an app to work, the following criteria are generally required:
The operating system must support proxy settings
The proxy settings must understand authentication, i.e. prompting for a usercode and password
The app must understand and use the operating system’s proxy settings
The app must connect to the Internet via standard methods
If any of these criteria are not met, there is a greater chance that an app will not function as desired.
ITS at Massey has undertaken testing across multiple versions of the most commonly used operating systems (Both mobile and traditional) and many popular, commonly used apps. Additionally testing was done via both the MUStaff wireless network and the MUStaffPrivateEquipment and MUStudents wireless networks.
Google and Apple’s apps stores contain millions of apps. Because of the large number, ITS does not have the ability to test all of these apps. If you have a mobile app you are needing to use for teaching, learning or research, but it is not working, please contact the Service Desk and log a request to have your app tested. Please note that it may be possible that you will be recommended to use another app or access a service via a web browser in cases where this is the most appropriate solution.
Note, all of the following test results were achieved with proxy server settings set. You may receive different results if you do not have proxy server settings completed.
You can view the test results for your platform via the following links:
Some tests done with full desktop applications and some with apps
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