Secure Browser vs. Enterprise Browser: What’s the Difference?

Secure Browser vs. Enterprise Browser

Navigating the Browser Landscape 

Most web browsers are targeted at the average consumer, whose needs revolve around activities such as reading email, browsing the web, online shopping, watching videos, and engaging on social media. As enterprise and productivity software evolved and more work was performed in the browser, the same consumer-grade browsers were used in the workplace. IT teams bolted on layers of security and administrative tools to accommodate the use of consumer-grade browsers in an enterprise context.  

Today, the browser is the starting point for most enterprise workflows. This shift in work patterns gave birth to a new type of browser — one focused on the needs of the workplace. 

This innovation in workplace browsers arrived in two phases: 

  • Secure browsers such as RBI or Bromium are focused on solving the security challenges associated with consumer-grade browsers. While security is essential for enterprise applications, in practice these secure browsers often force a tradeoff by diminishing the end-user experience. It’s no surprise that secure browsers have failed to gain widespread adoption. 
  • Enterprise browsers approach the challenge more broadly and incorporate enterprise-grade security, business workflow integrations, and end-user productivity requirements into their design. This approach delivers widespread value to CISOs, CIOs, and the business leaders they work with. At the same time, end users benefit from productivity enhancements and streamlined access, so there’s no tradeoff required. 

The browser is where most work gets done today, and a corresponding shift has to occur in the tool that supports this work. It is time to treat the browser as an enterprise application, and to expect it to meet the demands of the enterprise use case.

Enterprise and Secure Browsers Share Some Basic Similarities

At their core, both secure browsers and enterprise browsers come with out-of-the-box security and privacy functionalities. However, the approach to security and enterprise capabilities expected of each and how these requirements are manifested differ significantly. Secure browsers include features geared toward protecting against external threats like malware or session hijacking. Enterprise browsers build upon this external security focus while adding advanced access controls and data protection to safeguard applications, data, and users against both external and internal risks. 

The differences become more apparent when we examine the philosophy that underpins their designs. While secure browsers took a few steps towards strengthening security in the browser, they did so to the exclusion of other requirements. Enterprise browsers embrace a secure-by-design philosophy to meet these needs by adopting a more comprehensive view of what the browser can and should do to meet the demands of businesses.

Enterprise Browsers Are Designed for Businesses

Enterprise browsers are designed for organizational use within businesses and institutions. They serve as the foundation for many critical workflows, so they require features and functions that go beyond a typical secure browser — and far beyond a consumer browser. These include centralized management of applications and access, sophisticated security and compliance features, productivity enhancements, business workflow integrations and automations, and an elevated user experience. 

Enterprise Features

Access controls and data security are key capabilities for an enterprise browser, and illustrate how the solution offers more than a secure browser. When an enterprise browser is integrated with the organization’s identity management system, it becomes the workspace for enterprise application access. Leading enterprise browsers can go beyond web applications with SSH, RDP, or virtualized application workflows. Data protections are streamlined with consistent policies applied across all workflows with an enterprise browser. 

Another key feature of enterprise browsers is their ability to seamlessly integrate with SaaS applications, allowing organizations to embed policies that enforce their data protection preferences within those applications. Take Salesforce as an example: the browser can restrict the download of sensitive customer data or limit access to certain Salesforce features based on the user's role and security clearance. And with browser enforcement mechanisms, users can only access Salesforce through their organization’s preferred enterprise browser. 

Enterprise browsers also prioritize user experience in the context of the workplace. They incorporate password managers, workflow automation, and support single sign-on with modern MFA through identity providers such as Okta, allowing users to securely access all their applications quickly with zero friction. 

Key Differences: Secure Browsers vs. Enterprise Browsers

Consider two essential areas of difference between a secure browser and the more advanced enterprise browser: security dexterity and user experience. 

Security Dexterity

Secure browsers often take a “blunt instrument” approach to security and data protections, which can disrupt work and drive up complexity. For example, a secure browser that blocks all copy & paste functions will succeed at stopping data leakage but fail the usability test. 

Enterprise browsers provide security features that are tailored to business needs, as well as strict control over privacy settings and data management. They build data protections into the browser itself, enabling organizations to build policies to govern all data movement in and out of the browser. With context-based policies to govern the ability to download or upload data, take screenshots, print, and copy and paste content within the browser, enterprise browsers help prevent data loss without disrupting user workflows. 

To secure and simplify access, enterprise browsers integrate with enterprise identity and access management systems that support multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO). They also enable organizations to monitor and analyze security incidents and maintain regulatory compliance while preserving user privacy by providing features that allow context-aware logging and auditing of browser activity. The browsers feed signals into endpoint security and SIEM solutions through integrations to extend their utility.

User Experience

Secure browsers are designed and built to satisfy cybersecurity requirements. Few cybersecurity tools can promise improvements to the user experience, and secure browsers are no different. For some organizations, this tradeoff is acceptable. 

Enterprise browsers start with a secure-by-design foundation and introduce user experience enhancements that boost productivity. This may start with a browser home screen that offers all the applications required, tailored to the specific user, their role, and their location. Policies are personalized to the organization, offering contextual feedback and education for the user. And a great enterprise browser will offer built-in productivity tools like a password manager, AI assistant, and clipboard manager to streamline common workflows. All this translates into an optimized workspace for each user that offers security protections and productivity benefits. 

Island, the Enterprise Browser: Security and Productivity by Design

Island is the leading enterprise browser. It incorporates all the features described above and includes additional security, user experience, and productivity features to differentiate it further from secure browsers and consumer-grade browsers. 

Baked into the core of the Island browser is the concept of zero-trust security, which focuses on user identity, device posture, and least-privilege resource access to reduce risk across numerous categories of cybersecurity threats. 

While the Island browser is security and feature-rich, the user experience is where it truly shines. The browser is optimized for speed and responsiveness for enterprise applications. It minimizes unnecessary network requests by blocking ads and trackers, and eliminates the performance delays and disruptions caused by added layers of abstraction between the user and their work as with desktop virtualization and remote browser isolation.

To unleash productivity, Island builds a smart clipboard manager, an AI assistant, a password manager, and a PDF editor into the browser. It also integrates with enterprise cloud storage to streamline downloads and uploads, and provides IT teams with the option of deploying and configuring extensions and productivity tools inside the browser itself. Collectively, these features reduce delays and boost user output.

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