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Do's and don'ts for using Android in business

While it's important to remember that the use of Google Android software in the enterprise is still a comparatively young phenomenon, there are a few general guidelines that businesses looking to use the platform would do well to remember.

DO:

1.) Look before you leap

Picture a retailer of some type with a brand-new product that it either developed in-house or bought from a vendor -- say, a point-of-sale system that uses commodity Android devices instead of cash registers. It'll make sales operationally easier and dramatically improve analytics. Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, let's say the company is so excited to use its new system that it simply goes in one night and replaces all the old registers with the new tablets -- chaos ensues, nobody has tested anything, and nobody knows how to use it. Less great.

2.) Have a plan

Emulate the Russians. Even if all you're doing is trying to make sure employees can get secure access to their corporate email accounts via their Galaxies and Nexuses, approaching the issue in a thoughtful, deliberate way will be a lot more helpful than simply panicking and saying "quick, figure out a way for the CEO to get his damn email!"

[ ANALYSIS: Is Android in the business world to stay? ]

3.) Manage this stuff

Not to put too fine a point on it, but IT departments are kind of screwed when it comes to managing mobile devices -- particularly Androids -- in this age of BYOD hysteria. Try to regulate all device use within an inch of its life, and people will either just quit using their phones or actively try to find ways around your restrictions. Throw open your doors to all comers, and congratulations! You now have huge potential security and privacy issues to deal with!

What I'm saying is that it's important to find a middle ground. Products that partition a device into personal and business sections seem particularly well-suited to BYOD use, since you can secure the hell out of everything on the business side without affecting a worker's ability to complain about you on Twitter or watch Netflix.

DON'T:

1.) Ignore security

The idea that Android devices are inherently less safe than iPhones or Windows Phones may be a little misleading, but that doesn't mean you can ignore security issues. While you're never going to be able to protect yourself against some types of threats ...

... some decent VPN support and remote wiping/tracking -- along with the aforementioned partitioning idea -- could go a long way toward assuaging your fears.

2.) Worry too much about fragmentation

Yes, there's an enormous range of Android devices out there. Yes, there are still several main versions of the software being used. And yes, most of the major OEMs have their own customized "flavors" of Android.

But according to plentyofexperts, this issue is kind of overblown. There may be some work to be done to ensure broad compatibility, but it shouldn't be enough to put you off.

~~

3.) Be an annoying Android hipster

Let's be honest -- the days of the snooty Apple supremacist are numbered. (Though they're certainly still out there.) Please try not to be the Android equivalent (warning -- video title is NSFW):

Remember: Friends don't let friends be jerks over smartphone operating systems.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.


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