Enterprise Browser: Definition, Key Features, and Use Cases

Revolutionize the way you secure and enable work with an enterprise browser. Discover what it is, its benefits, key features, and real-world applications.

Revolutionize the way you secure and enable work with an enterprise browser. Discover what it is, its benefits, key features, and real-world applications.

Enterprise Browser: Definition, Key Features, and Use Cases

The broad adoption of SaaS and web applications made the web browser a critical enterprise application. But many organizations still use consumer browsers that were never designed as enterprise applications. Recognizing this gap, the concept of an enterprise browser has emerged as a cornerstone of modern infrastructure strategy.

Let's dive into the world of enterprise browsers: what they are, where they fit into the IT ecosystem, and how they're reshaping the way businesses interact with SaaS and web applications.

What is an enterprise browser?

An enterprise browser is a web browser designed specifically to meet the unique needs of businesses, focusing on security, manageability, and integration with enterprise tools and workflows. 

Unlike consumer browsers that are optimized for general web browsing by individuals, enterprise browsers offer features tailored to workplace usage. This includes integration with enterprise identity systems, enhanced security measures, full administration controls, and optimization for enterprise applications.

Enterprise Browsers vs. Consumer Browsers

The web browsers most people use today like Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge were designed for the widest possible user community, and optimized for personal use. An enterprise browser was designed specifically for the workplace, and optimized to serve the enterprise needs of the organization. It does so by taking the core security, IT, and productivity capabilities that typically surround the browser, and naturally embedding them into the browser itself.

The result is a browser experience optimized for end users, coupled with an admin console optimized for IT and security teams.

At its core, an enterprise browser is built on the Chromium browser engine – the same technology that powers Chrome, Edge, Brave, and other popular consumer browsers. By using Chromium, an enterprise browser can deliver the smooth, familiar user experience users expect, while ensuring 100% compatibility with SaaS and web applications right out of the box.

Key Features of an Enterprise Browser

Enterprise browsers are designed to address the unique needs of modern enterprises by offering a suite of features that enhance security, productivity, and manageability. Here's how they deliver on these fronts with specific examples:

Application Access

Enterprise browsers provide secure and controlled access to both internal and external web applications, ensuring that users can reach necessary resources efficiently.

Consider a scenario where an organization uses a mix of cloud-based SaaS applications like Salesforce for CRM, Google Workspace for collaboration, and internally hosted web applications for HR and finance. An enterprise browser can offer seamless access to these resources by integrating with identity and access management (IAM) systems for single sign-on (SSO) capabilities. It can enforce granular access to applications and restrict certain pages or functions within an application to certain users. 

In addition to user identity, an enterprise browser considers the device status, network location, and geolocation to protect against unauthorized access. 

Data Protection

Protecting sensitive corporate data from leakage or unauthorized access is a core capability of enterprise browsers, achieved through granular control over data interactions within the browser.

Imagine a financial analyst working with sensitive customer data in a web-based reporting tool. The enterprise browser can prevent this data from being copied and pasted into unauthorized web applications or being downloaded to an unsecured device. Policies could be configured to allow data interaction within approved applications while redacting sensitive information or blocking downloads to ensure data doesn't leave the secure environment.

Visibility with Privacy

Enterprise browsers balance the need for organizational oversight with individual privacy, offering detailed insights into user behavior and application usage while respecting user privacy.

Take, for example, a healthcare provider needing to ensure compliance with health information privacy regulations such as HIPAA while still monitoring for unusual or unauthorized access to patient records through web applications. An enterprise browser can log access to sensitive applications, providing auditors with the information needed for compliance reviews without capturing personal browsing data of the staff, ensuring that personal use of the web remains private and secure.

User Productivity

Enhancing user productivity by streamlining access to tools and resources, offering a fast and responsive browsing experience, and integrating productivity-enhancing features.

Consider a contact center agent who interacts with customers through email and online chat. Leading enterprise browsers offer built-in productivity tools, such as an AI assistant and smart clipboard manager, that will help the contact center agent reply quickly and confidently to customer inquiries. 

Enterprise Browser Use Cases

Enterprise browsers address several critical use cases in modern enterprise IT environments by balancing the needs for security, manageability, and a positive user experience. 

Let's explore how they cater to specific scenarios:

Securing SaaS and Web Apps

Challenge: SaaS and web applications are central to business operations but can pose significant security risks when accessed with a consumer browser. 

Solution: An enterprise browser ensures secure access to these applications by embedding security policies directly into the browser. It can enforce content and context-aware policies, like restricting copy-paste actions, redirecting downloads to secure cloud storage, or redacting sensitive information displayed on-screen, thereby preventing data exfiltration or leakage.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Challenge: BYOD policies increase flexibility and reduce costs but introduce risks associated with mixing personal and corporate data, potential malware infections, and inconsistent security postures.

Solution: Enterprise browsers enable secure and controlled access to corporate resources from personal devices. They can ensure separation of work and personal data by restricting downloads onto a personal device and applying security policies tuned for BYOD. Outside the enterprise browser, the personal device stays personal so there’s no compromising user privacy. 

Contractor and Third-Party Access

Challenge: Contractors need access to corporate applications and resources. Providing access to an unmanaged device risks exposing sensitive information, and provisioning laptops or virtual desktops adds cost and complexity.  

Solution: With an enterprise browser, organizations can offer contractors controlled access to necessary applications and data, without provisioning new devices. Policies can be fine-tuned to limit access based on the contractor's role, location, or device, ensuring they have only the information necessary to complete their tasks. Data protections ensure that sensitive information never leaks outside the browser. 

Radically Reduce Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

Challenge: VDI solutions provide centrally managed  access to corporate environments but are expensive, complex to manage, and often deliver a subpar user experience.

Solution: An enterprise browser can reduce the need for VDI by offering a secure, managed browser environment that connects users directly to corporate web applications and resources. This approach can augment VDI by providing direct access to SaaS and web apps, reducing the load on VDI infrastructure, and in some cases, replacing the need for VDI altogether.

Zero Trust Security

Challenge: Legacy security models based on device and network trust are no longer adequate for today's distributed work environment. Zero trust models, which assume no implicit trust and verify every access request, can be challenging to implement.

Solution: An enterprise browser supports zero trust security models by verifying the user, device, and application context for every access request. It can enforce access controls and security policies directly within the browser, ensuring that only authenticated and authorized users can access corporate resources.

In each of these use cases, the enterprise browser emerges as a pivotal tool that enables organizations to navigate the complexities of modern IT environments, ensuring security, flexibility, and a seamless user experience​​​​​​.

What are the benefits of an enterprise browser?

Enterprise organizations that use SaaS or web applications for essential business functions should use an enterprise browser. Consumer browsers were never designed for enterprise use, so organizations typically surround them with other tools and technologies to make them suitable for business. An enterprise browser offers a superior browser experience for IT, security, and employees alike.  

  • Built-in security and data protection. Enterprise browsers integrate advanced security measures to protect against phishing, malware, and adaptive threats, directly within the browser. These integrated protections safeguard enterprise applications and data, enabling dynamic data protection policies that prevent leakage and enhance security without disrupting workflows.
  • Control and governance. Administrators can implement granular, context-aware policies directly within the browser to manage access and user interactions based on role, device status, and location. This control allows for precise security measures, such as blocking risky downloads or restricting data transfer to untrusted sites, thereby enhancing organizational compliance and security.
  • Visibility and monitoring. Enterprise browsers provide detailed logging of web activities, offering insights into user interactions while maintaining privacy for personal browsing. This monitoring creates a thorough audit trail that aids in compliance, forensic investigations, and proactive threat detection, balancing security with user privacy.
  • Integration with enterprise tools. These browsers seamlessly integrate with corporate infrastructure like identity management systems and SIEM, ensuring a cohesive and secure IT environment. Such integration reduces compatibility issues and streamlines IT operations, fostering a secure and efficient work environment.
  • Reduced infrastructure. By centralizing control and enhancing security, enterprise browsers reduce the need for multiple security solutions and simplify IT management. The reduction in disparate systems not only lowers costs but also decreases complexity, making IT management more straightforward and cost-effective.
  • Better user experience. Enterprise browsers are based on familiar technology and integrate with enterprise tools, providing optimized performance and minimal training requirements. This leads to a user-friendly environment that enhances productivity and reduces the friction typically associated with adopting new technology.
  • Enterprise branding and messaging. Organizations can customize their enterprise browsers to reflect branding and streamline access to frequently used applications. Customization enhances user engagement and ensures a consistent corporate identity across tools, improving user familiarity and corporate coherence.
  • Password protection. Enterprise browsers enhance password security through integrated management and protection features that safeguard against phishing and malware. The built-in password management and privileged access management (PAM) capabilities enhance security for shared accounts, facilitating secure and efficient access management.

The Island Enterprise Browser

Island is the leading enterprise browser, offering complete control, visibility, and governance over web-based activities within the corporate environment. The following capabilities not available in a consumer browser and go beyond the scope of other enterprise browsers:

  • Deep integration of security and productivity features. Island seamlessly blends security features with productivity tools within the browser itself, rather than relying on external plugins or services. This includes advanced data protection mechanisms, secure access controls, and user activity monitoring, all designed to function without disrupting the user experience.
  • Granular control over web activities. Organizations can enforce policies to block access to harmful or risky web destinations or display a warning to users. Within an application, policies govern what actions are allowed based on the context of the user, their device, and the application itself. These controls can mask or modify what’s displayed on the page, as well as how data moves between or outside of applications. 
  • Built-in zero trust security. Island is engineered with a zero-trust architecture at its core, ensuring that no user or device is trusted by default, regardless of their network location. This approach is reflected in features that verify the identity and security posture of each user and device before granting access to web applications and data.
  • User privacy considerations. While offering comprehensive visibility into user activities for security and compliance purposes, Island also respects user privacy. Policies are context aware to differentiate between corporate and personal browsing sessions, applying the right level of visibility for each activity. Users can see how their current session is monitored and protected with dynamic status indicators in the browser window. 
  • Simplified IT infrastructure. By integrating a wide array of security and management features directly into the browser, Island reduces the need for additional security solutions, such as remote browser isolation (RBI), virtual private networks (VPN), and complex DLP systems. This consolidation also reduces costs and the administrative burden associated with managing multiple security tools.

The Enterprise Browser: A New Foundation of Modern Infrastructure

The unique challenges of modern enterprises — ranging from securing sensitive data and applications to enabling a flexible and productive workforce — demand a solution that goes beyond the capabilities of traditional consumer browsers.

The enterprise browser emerges not just as a tool, but as a foundational element of a modern IT ecosystem. By offering built-in security features, granular control and governance, and a user experience designed for productivity, enterprise browsers like Island address the critical needs of today's businesses.

Further reading

With an enterprise browser, IT leaders now have the opportunity to build a tech stack that’s considerably leaner and much more effective.

See why BYOD is your best starting point for testing and roll out.

Enterprise Browser: FAQ

Do I need to test all my applications for compatibility?

All leading enterprise browsers are based on the Chromium rendering engine, the same as Chrome, Edge, Brave, and other browsers. This means that any application that works with Chrome or Edge will work with an enterprise browser, and the page rendering is identical.

Can I use an enterprise browser with legacy applications that require Internet Explorer?

Some enterprise browsers offer an IE Legacy Mode that swaps out the Chromium rendering engine to use the IE engine that's still bundled with the Windows OS. Be sure to ask your enterprise browser vendor if they offer this capability.

Does an enterprise browser introduce any performance penalties?

An enterprise browser offers the same performance as a consumer browser for all web applications and web browsing. In many situations, you'll actually see a performance improvement over consumer browsers if the enterprise browser offers ad and tracker blocking. Be sure to ask your enterprise browser vendor if they offer this capability.

How does an enterprise browser compare to VDI/DaaS streamed through a browser?

Virtual desktops are often used to fill a similar role as an enterprise browser. There are some significant differences between the two technologies to consider: VDI requires substantial infrastructure investments in terms of servers, networking, and virtualization software.

Even when cloud hosted, the service cost reflects the large infrastructure requirement. VDI also puts a burden on users, with session interruptions, visual artifacts, or delays in application performance, creating a real tax on user productivity. For most organizations, shifting SaaS and web workloads out of VDI and into an enterprise browser will deliver significant cost savings and a dramatically better user experience.

Can an enterprise browser work within my security service edge (SSE) environment?

An enterprise browser can happily coexist within an SSE environment, and this is not uncommon today. Or, an enterprise browser can be used as an alternative to SSE. Moving the enforcement layer from the network to the browser offers several advantages. An enterprise browser offers complete flexibility in deployment. They can be used on managed or unmanaged devices and don't require routing and inspecting network traffic.

This flexibility applies to applications as well: an enterprise browser does its management and inspection in the browser, so there's no requirement for application-specific API integration.

Do I need a VPN to use an enterprise browser?

An enterprise browser will use whatever network connection is available on the endpoint. It can use a VPN, ZTNA, or proxy connection from another vendor without conflict. Some enterprise browser vendors offer integrated ZTNA that's built-in to the browser to streamline access to internal or private applications. Be sure to ask your enterprise browser vendor if they offer this capability.

Can I use an enterprise browser on an unmanaged or personal (BYOD) device?

Yes. All the management capabilities of an enterprise browser are delivered directly through the browser so it can be deployed on any device, whether it's managed or unmanaged. This also offers flexibility in deployment where the enterprise browser is managed by one organization and the device is managed by another-for example, clients working with a BPO.

Can I use an enterprise browser on a mobile device?

Yes. Several enterprise browser vendors offer both desktop and mobile versions. Be sure to ask your enterprise browser vendor if they offer this capability.

Does an enterprise browser record all user web activity? What about user privacy?

Activity logging and auditing is an important capability for an enterprise browser, but it is configured in a way to balance the needs of the organization and the user's privacy. An enterprise browser supports flexible logging controls that record activity within critical application workflows while anonymizing (or ignoring) strictly personal web destinations. Some enterprise browsers also offer a user-facing indicator that will show the user whether their activity is being monitored. Be sure to ask your enterprise browser vendor if they offer this capability.