Dual-persona technology: What it is and how it works

Dual-persona technology is still new, so IT pros want to know how it works and what the drawbacks are. Check out this FAQ for those answers and more.

With dual-persona technology, IT administrators can separate work from play on users' devices. But that doesn't mean employees will let it happen.

Dual persona creates two separate spaces on the same device, one for IT to manage and one for the user to manage. That can help improve the security of enterprise data, and it can prevent users from losing all their apps, songs and vacation pictures if an admin has to perform a remote wipe. But dual-persona technology is still fairly new, so a lot of information is up in the air. How will users react to dual personas on their devices? How will IT integrate it with existing management systems?

For now, we don't know all the answers. But we can answer some of the most frequently asked questions about dual-persona basics.

What is dual-persona technology?

The term "dual persona" refers to the provisioning of two separate environments on one mobile device. Usually, one environment is for work-related apps and data and is managed by IT, while the other environment is for personal data. The two personas on the device are isolated from one another, which helps IT manage the corporate information that's on employees' personal devices. When a worker leaves the company or loses his device, an administrator can wipe the enterprise portion of the device without affecting the worker's personal data. Admins can also set policies for the work portion of the device, which improves security.

How does dual-persona technology work?

There are two ways that dual-persona technology works. In the first, all corporate data and applications get containerized on a device, which is often done through mobile application management (MAM). The second approach is to use a hypervisor to create separate virtual machines on a device. VMware has taken this approach with Horizon Mobile.

Which vendors offer dual-persona technology?

BlackBerry has Balance for BlackBerry devices and Work Space for Android and iOS devices. The VMware approach uses a hypervisor for dual persona, so Horizon Mobile is only currently available on two Android phones from Verizon Wireless. Samsung has KNOX, which creates dual personas at the operating system level of Android phones. AT&T's dual-persona application, called Toggle, is available for Android, with clients for iOS, Windows and BlackBerry devices on the horizon. MobileSpaces, Mocana and Symantec also offer MAM-based dual-persona technologies.

What are the drawbacks of dual persona?

One of the most obvious drawbacks is usability. Workers might not be interested in having to switch back and forth between environments on their own phones. When employees own the devices, it's IT's job to get workers on board, and those employees have the power to say no. Another drawback of dual persona is that absolute security is almost impossible to attain because there are so many ways that data can escape a device. So, you can't view dual persona as a substitute for user agreements, security policies and identity management tools. And because dual persona hasn't really taken off yet, it remains to be seen how IT will integrate it with other enterprise mobility management tools.

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