Balance is BlackBerry’s secure mobile container application that’s both easy to implement and highly secure, while also allowing users to have access to a full range of smartphone features for personal use.
In effect, BlackBerry Balance gives your smartphone a dual personality that’s easy to use but keeps work data and personal data totally separate. What’s remarkable is that the Balance process is so transparent that you only realize it’s there when you try to do something that violates security rules.
I tried out BlackBerry Balance on a BlackBerry Z10 smartphone running the current version of BlackBerry OS 10.2, which is required. BlackBerry Balance also works on older devices running BlackBerry OS 7, such as the BlackBerry Bold 9900. Balance requires BlackBerry Enterprise Services 10. I used Balance to create a secure work environment that included Microsoft Exchange.
Balance creates a secure container on a BlackBerry 10 smartphone that’s provisioned by the IT department. The provisioning can include standard BlackBerry apps, white listed apps and apps that can use both the secure and unlocked sides of the device.
But most apps, including pretty much anything you can download from the Amazon App Store and through 1MobileMarket, will run only on the unlocked personal side of the device. Those apps can be downloaded and used, but they will never even be able to detect that the secure work side of the device exists.
Some apps can see more, however. For example, when the Camera and the Pictures app operate in the secure side of the device, they can only handle images that are part of the secure container created by Balance.
When they run in the unlocked side of the device they have access only to that part, which can include an SD card. Balance operates so that photos and pictures from the secure side cannot exist on removable storage.
The BlackBerry Hub, which is the unified communications service that displays email, messages and even phone calls, can see and display information from both sides of the device. However, you cannot copy information from the protected side of the device to the unlocked side.
Attempts to cut and paste text between messages from different sides of the device simply fail, no matter what scheme you may attempt short of using a separate camera and taking a photo of the screen.
BlackBerry Balance Maintains Strong Wall Between Work, Personal Data
One useful feature of Balance is that you can control the ability to see both sides of the unified messaging. It can be provisioned so that it’s not possible to see both sides of the phone in unified messaging and users can also choose to hide work messages from the personal (unlocked) side of the device.
This is handy if you’re trying to ignore your work email while you’re on vacation, for example, or if you don’t want to be distracted by personal messages while you’re working.
Despite the impenetrable wall between the work and personal sides of the device, switching between them requires only a choice on a pull down menu. Slide a menu down from the top of the screen and the choice appears. All you have to do is select it to change instantly. You can, however, set it so that a password is required to enter the work side of the device from the personal side.
Balance gives users the limited ability to move data from the personal side to the work side of the device. But you can only make data more secure than it was to begin with. For example you can highlight data in a personal email and then paste it into your work email, but you can’t go the other direction.
Once Balance is provisioned for a specific user, the IT department doesn’t need to do anything to the device. Users will need to enter their email address and password to activate Balance on their device, at which point the device will synchronize email that was provisioned to be in the work side of Balance.
Provisioning requires knowing details about the user’s email service that are readily available to the IT department, including the user name, the server address and the domain information.
I found the entire process of setting up and using Balance to be straightforward and uncomplicated. I also tried everything I could think of to get into the secure work side of the device in a way that an unauthorized user might.
Trying to get access through the USB port, using the SD card and cutting and pasting simply didn’t work. While the BlackBerry’s memory is accessible through the USB port so that you can use the device as you might a memory disk or external hard drive, the secure section of the device remained inaccessible.
Overall, BlackBerry Balance seems to be well thought-out and easy to use. The IT department retains control over the data on the work side of the device, and can wipe it as needed without affecting any personal information. Balance seems to be a quick and easy, yet very secure, method of protecting mobile data, and that’s something most companies need.