In just over two years Google's Android operating system has become ubiquitous among smartphone users. However, when it comes to business use, Android still has some growing to do. Here's how to keep your Android phones and tablets safe from malware and hackers.
Tools to manage Android
The rise of third-party offerings for managing and protecting mobile devices is not directly related to Android, or to any other platform per se. It is more about filling a need for a framework capable of managing a diverse, heterogeneous collection of smartphone platforms. Businesses are increasingly allowing employees to choose the smartphone that suits them best and then working to accommodate those choices, rather than simply dictating which smartphones are - and are not - acceptable.
For less-mature platforms like the Apple iPhone and Android smartphones, though, third-party products provide a much more robust and comprehensive set of smartphone management tools than those of the respective device vendors. And third-party tools tend to be more suitable for cross-platform work environments.
Zenprise MobileManager can apply and update ActiveSync policies, and it also provides security controls that extend beyond the basic protection Android alone offers. Symantec has a comprehensive set of tools for managing and protecting mobile devices, as well, and it recently introduced Android support new for some of those applications. With these tools, IT admins can monitor and track Android smartphones to enforce compliance with established security policies, as well as set policies to define password requirements, lock company smartphones after a period of inactivity, and wipe a device after a set number of failed password attempts. The mobile-security platforms will also detect noncompliant Android devices and suspend ActiveSync access to prevent them from connecting to sensitive information and networks.
The most established third-party product for managing mobile devices, though, is Good for Enterprise from Good Technology. Good for Enterprise provides IT admins with a web-based console for managing and troubleshooting remote mobile devices - including Android smartphones. For businesses deploying Android smartphones, one of the most important features of Good for Enterprise is the ability to ensure protection of data using AES-192 encryption.
Obviously, such third-party management tools require an additional investment; IT admins will also need time to become familiar with the policies and protection required, as well as to get things properly configured. But once you overcome the initial learning curve and the tool is up and running, it can pay for itself in reducing the effort necessary to monitor and protect mobile devices, and in freeing up IT administrators for more important tasks.
Android invasion marches on
Android is a powerful platform that has a lot to offer for mobile business productivity. The diverse array of smartphones available, combined with the impending explosion of Android-based tablets, virtually guarantees that Android's presence in business will continue to grow.
Here's hoping that as Android matures, the tools available to manage, maintain, and secure Android devices within a business-network infrastructure evolve as well. Whether Android expands to include more of the functionality that IT admins expect, or whether more third-party developers step up to fill the void, the long-term success of Android as a business tool depends on it.
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