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BES and BIS: What's the Difference?

CrackBerry.com's BlackBerry 101 Lecture Series
By Kevin Michaluk on 17 Sep 2007 02:45 am EDT
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Morning Class! We'll skip roll call, but I do have two quick announcements to make... First, we're going to have a guest instructor today, and second, we are going to have TWO classes this week!!!

I received a ton of overwhelmingly positive feedback on our first BlackBerry 101 lecture, Why BlackBerry?, and also received the request from several readers to dive into more detail on two terms that were briefly mentioned - BES and BIS.

BES and BIS are two commonly heard acronyms in the BlackBerry world, but if you are a new BlackBerry user or haven't purchased a BlackBerry yet, they probably won't mean much to you. It's an important topic, and one worthy of a dedicated lecture by a knowledgeable BlackBerry Guru, so without further adieux I am pleased to introduce our guest lecturer Will Hickie, President of WICKSoft (makers of WICKSoft Mobile Documents), to take you through the topic! start the lecture!

BES and BIS: What's the Difference?
by Will Hickie

I’m often asked about the difference between BES and BIS. They both serve the same ultimate purpose: to deliver email (and data) to your handheld in a secure and reliable manner. So what’s the difference? 

What is BIS?
BIS stands for BlackBerry Internet Service. It gives your BlackBerry access to the Internet. It’s like an ISP, but for your smart-phone instead of your home computer.  Every time your BlackBerry gets an email, or accesses a webpage, it does so through BIS (unless you’re using BES)

What is BES?
BES stands for BlackBerry Enterprise Server. It gives your BlackBerry access to a corporate intranet. The intranet is the private, internal, network within a company. It’s kind of like a mini-internet that is cut off from the rest of the world. Many intranets allow you to communicate with the Internet as well, but with added layers of security.

The Differences
Both BES and BIS allow your BlackBerry to get email, as well as retrieve webpages and use third-party applications (like WICKSoft Mobile Documents!). All traffic from your phone goes to the BES / BIS server, and then the BES / BIS server communicates with the world on your behalf.

The difference, ultimately, lies in where the server resides and the level of control and security you get.

In the case of BIS, your carrier operates the server. Everything from BIS to your handheld is encrypted, but that’s about the extent of the security features. The carrier can decide what applications run on your phone, and how applications communicate with the Internet.

For BES, your company operates the server, and usually has it sitting somewhere within the corporate network. The IT department controls all aspect of the BES server, and it’s likely sitting in a nice and secure location.

So really, what does this mean?  
It’s all about privacy. In the case of BIS, everything operates on a public network.  Data from your phone to your carrier is encrypted, but ultimately your carrier is communicating with the Internet, which isn’t exactly the pinnacle of a secure environment. The odds of somebody intercepting your data, or worse, compromising the different systems you access, are much higher. I don’t want to scare anyone though: BIS is typically more secure than accessing the Internet from home using an ISP, and is WAY more secure than using WiFi or BlueTooth.

With BES, most of your data remains in a private, closed network.  Your BlackBerry has a secure link directly to the corporate environment, because the BES server is located in the office somewhere. The only way for someone to monitor or intercept your data would be for them to infiltrate your organization.

So think of it like this: In the BIS case, a guy with an envelope (your data / email) is running around New York City trying to deliver the package to you—hopefully you can trust him, and hopefully nobody thumps him over the head and takes the envelope.   For BES, the guy delivering the envelope is walking around inside a secure compound, among trusted people who have proper security clearance, and cameras are monitoring his every move as he travels the 50 feet from his desk to your desk. 

Wait, there’s more!
I’ve been overly simplistic in my description of BES.  BES really does a whole lot more than just fetch email.  For one, it acts just like a VPN in the sense that in makes sure ALL data travelling between your BlackBerry and your office is encrypted.

Also, BES provides tools to publish applications, and define how those applications can interact with the phone and the network.

Imagine that you have 500 BlackBerrys in your organization, and you want to install an application (like WICKSoft Mobile Documents) on each of the phones.  BES will let you ‘push’ a copy of the application to each of the phones without ever having to physically touch a single device. You don’t have to worry about an end-user making a configuration mistake, or forgetting to install the application.  It’s all done automatically, and securely.

BES also lets you remotely wipe and lock a device.  This is very useful for those cases where people forget their BlackBerrys in the back of a taxi, or have them stolen.

Restrictions
Not all wireless carriers offer the same level of BIS service. Some of you are unlucky enough to be stuck with one that restricts third-party applications from accessing the Internet. This means that a lot of excellent third-party applications for the BlackBerry are simply unavailable.

With BES there are no inherent restrictions, because your company gets to decide all of these things.  Want GoogleTalk to work, but not Yahoo! Messenger? No problem: BES lets your company enable one, and cripple the other.

In conclusion
BIS provides a direct link between your phone and your wireless provider, but after that all traffic essentially goes out over the Internet.  Any and all security becomes the responsibility of the BlackBerry application in question, so there are no security guarantees.  That said, BIS does a good job at providing Internet and email support and, best of all-- you don’t have to set anything up.

BES provides what is essentially a direct link between your phone and your office environment.  It’s very secure, flexible, and gives your company control over all aspects of the BlackBerry.  There is a certain ‘baseline’ security inherent in all data transactions, and your IT department can always disable your BlackBerry if it’s been compromised.

Smaller companies, or individuals, are well served by BIS—it provides you with almost everything you need.  Larger organizations, with their own internal mail systems and other infrastructure, should definitely be using BES.

Next Class
Let's have a big round of applause for our guest lecturer Will Hickie! Thanks for taking the time to contribute to CrackBerry.com's BlackBerry 101 Lecture Series. I know we'll ve be having you back for more! In the meantime, you can discuss this lecture in the CrackBerry forums, and be sure to come back on WEDNESDAY for our next lecture - Choosing the Best BlackBerry For You! Class Dismissed. :)

Reader comments

BES and BIS: What's the Difference?

39 Comments

That really helpedme learn the difference between the two. I'm set up on a BES with my company, however I'm thini=king that they might be the culprits of why I can have MMS sent to my phone. People try to send me pic messages and it never comes through to my phone. I'm thinking maybe they might have something restricting them from coming through on their end....

I was hoping for a better description of the functionality differences, rather than just the differences security and deployment. (Though, what you did describe was helpful, too.) For example, how is email sync'd between the Blackberry and BIS versus the Blackberry and BES? I get different answers depending on what site I visit.

I currently use a hosted Exchange server to handle one of my email accounts. It's been great at keeping my desktop, my laptop, and my Windows Mobile 5 phone in sync including read status and flagged status. I'm thinking of moving to the 8310 when it gets released but definitely want to maintain my ability to keep everything in sync. (Mostly email since calendar, contact and "to do" items get synced by direct connect to the desktop.)

Do I have to go the route of adding on BES service to my hosted Exchange (an extra $10 a month) or can I get away with the BIS service through AT&T?

Hey Sean,

Thanks for the comments. I'll forward on to our "guest lecturer" to see if he can also address your questions when he gets a chance.

At the same time, if there's any BIS/BES experts who want to chime in with some Expert support, you're more than welcome!

One thing I can add though (I'm not a certifield BIS/BES Expert in this area, hence a guest lecturer!!), is that if you are running a hosted exchange server you should be able to set up RIM's single license BES simulator. You can download it for free (comes with a free license for one device), and it allows you to keep everything in sync both ways (email, address book, calendar, etc.) between your Berry and Exchange Server. And this works for when you are on the BIS.

CrackBerry.com's webmaster/all around guru set this up for me a few months back, and it's worked flawlessly. Look for a step-by-step guide to setting this up in a future lecture. It's essentially basic BES syncing functionality, and is available who bought their berrys from a carrier and were initially set up on BIS.

Hi Kevin,

I've been struggling to find information about how to set up what I'm after.

My company, in Jersey (so different TelCos) has a BES Exchange box. They want me (in the UK) to get a BlackBerry. They said I need a BES client licence but the UK telcos are completely useless and don't seem to know about this stuff. They keep trying to sell me a BIS.

Can I purchase a BIS BlackBerry and data allowance and then connect it up to the BES? If so, what do I need?

I really appreciate any help you might be able to offer!

It is not the device that has either BES or BIS, that would be poor customer service. Can you imagine if you had 20 devices all programmed w/ BES and than let them go to BIS??!!! YIKES

At ATT BES and BIS are two seperate features we add to your account as a data plan. BES email is sent out of the Enterprise server that your company has purchased rights to. BIS is a personal Blackberry Plan. If your company doesnt tell you that you need the BES plan or that you need the plan that runs on the Enterprise server than the BIS is good for most people.

Hope that helps.

Prof Hinkie - GREAT lecture! Like others here, CB.com sure knows how to make me actually look forward to Monday!

Kevin - I'm SOOOOO stoked that we're going to be having class twice a week now!!! Keep up the GREAT work!!!!!

Just twice this week (not every week). I promised I would do "Which BlackBerry to Choose for You" this week, but also wanted to work in the BIS vs. BES.

Back to just once a week come Monday (though I'm still we'll still fit in some extra classes from time to time).

I read the first lecture and was able to get more out of these darn things I have to support than anything else I have read or listened to. I have to support (troubleshoot, talk people off the ledge, tell them not to take them skiing or boating) about 600 of them. I understand the BES pretty well and am able to help my users with many different problems they can come up with. With this lecture, BIS and BES are now making more sense and I agree with Sean about more information possibly needed.

Thanks for putting this together. I have told others who also support the devices to check out this site and sign up. That and so they can stop calling me Blackberry Queen and learn so much more on how to use them.

Hey Class,

Some of you may see this as a good thing, others may see it as a bad thing. The "second" class scheduled for this week (today) is canceled.

I've been sick the last couple of days (starting to feel better but still out of whack), and I'm just not quite done on the lecture.

Look for "How to Choose the Right BlackBerry For You" on Monday...regular schedule in effect!

Thanks for the understanding,

Kevin

Hey I really enjoyed the lecture it really was informative. I will recommend it to everyone that has a Blackberry

Hi, thanks for the explanation. It was VERY informative.

I have another question that is related though (at least i think it is).

I currently have BIS set up temporarily on my office-issued BB. THe emails i have registered are my work and Yahoo (personal email). Now I'm assuming that my yahoo email stays private (i.e. the office folks can't track or read the contents and use it against me).

My question is: will I be able to enjoy the privacy of my personal (yahoo) email if i activate BES? THe office insists i activate BES.

Thanks much!

The current generation of BlackBerry smartphones do not have a touch screen, unlike several Windows Mobile based devices, as well as the iPhone, which do offer touch screens. However, the next generation of BlackBerry is known to have a touchscreen device, code-named BlackBerry Thunder.

This is a stupid question i know but i just cant figure it out. I have Verizon and when i open the browser on my blackberry 8830 it gives me certain pages i can visit. my question is how do i just type in the http address of the site i want to visit?

great lecture on the basics of BIS and BES. however, I would have liked to better understand the functional differences a bit more in depth. I guess I can't have everything, lol. Thank once again for another great lecture.

I have corporate BB 8900 with limited data plan. The only Browser is BB Browser no hotspot browser nstalled. I can connect to WiFi no problem. Even with mobile network disconnected I can get emails from work over WiFi and browse the web.

I have been reading differnt views on these forums such as:

1. No Charge to data plan as long as I am on WiFi.
2. As I have no hotspot browser and I am using BB browser this authenticate data via BES, BES tracks data so no matter if I am using WiFi it will chew up my data plan.

Can someone confirm with surity which of the above views are correct?

Thanks

This is awesome for a BB newbie like myself. Thanks! This whole site is incredible & I can't get enough of it.I am truly addicted.

this was most interesting to a newbie 64 year old like myself. i have a BIS data plan with Orange UK. am i correct in thinking that a BIS plan is cheaper than a BES plan?

These classes are great. I just got my first BB, a tour, and I am absolutely amazed at how versatile and easy to use it is. I cant beleive I didnt get one sooner!!

How to install an App when i do not have Blackberry Internet Services on my Blackberry and cannot download .jad files or OTA from Blackberry.
I can only install thru Desktop Manager.
This is the problem i am facing.
Can i Install .jad file or Download links (received after purchase of an App ) from Desktop to Blackberry , Please guide me for installation thru PC.

I would also like to know how the rate plan on your device is affected. I mean if you have a certain plan in which you pay for the internet and texting and voice on BIS then change to BES how is the plan affected? Do you end up paying the same or does the company end up paying for what you use? If the company starts to pay, what happens to your contract with the carrier?

I hope some notice this post since the last post was written 11 months ago. I'm concerned about the article on the CIO website about the security of smartphones(10/8/11). It describes a new vunerability of malware running unnoticed in the BBProxy app mostly concerning BES. Although this subject has appeared before as early as 2008, I'm wondering if there are any new facts and perspectives on this. I'm a BIS but would be reluctant to add a BES App to my phone.

Hi All,
Is BES service available in India also, currently my company employees have BIS plans, my service provider is Bharti Airtel, I contacted them and also Blackberry helpline number but they are not aware of such service, so whom do I contact.........
Also few employees are on prepaid plans , can those phones also be added in BES ,

Please help, I am in desperate need of this information, Thanks