More than a billion users carry Android smart devices such as smartphones and tablets, packed with powerful features. These devices are enhanced by the efforts of mobile app developers, who are constantly creating apps for productivity and personal use. While some users are utilising these devices for work-related tasks, most are not aware of their amazing benefits.
In a drive to tap into this potential, Google has introduced its mobile device management (MDM) platform - Android for Work. This platform gives IT departments and companies a more secure way to manage resources. Android for Work allows employees to access corporate data and applications with their Android mobile devices, without compromising their privacy. It's the Android equivalent of Apple's own MDM platform, as well as others from Good Technology and BlackBerry.
A comprehensive solution for data security
Google announced Android for Work in 2014 during the Google I/O conference and made it available on February 25, 2015. Android for Work is an enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform that enables companies to deliver a secure, productive, and rich mobile experience to their employees.
The objective of the programme is to allow workers to use their personal devices to complete work-related tasks, while keeping work data and personal content separate. In our eyes, there are three key features that make Android for Work stand out:
- Separating corporate data and business apps from personal apps on the user’s device
- Built-in apps for productivity from the Google Play Store
- The level of security of data, apps and devices
Nowadays, it’s common for workers to have two smartphones. While their personal device is loaded with the pictures of the family, social networking and perhaps entertainment and sports apps, their work phone is full of e-mails, appointments, contacts and documents. This is convenient for the IT department, giving them full control over work data and the ability to wipe it remotely in the event of loss or theft. Employees benefit from the privacy of personal data such as pictures and texts, but face carrying two devices with accessories such as chargers around.
The answer for this is a BYOD - Bring Your Own Device – policy, in which the IT department installs company software onto the worker’s personal device, to improve corporate data security. However, a better solution is provided by Google. It laid the groundbed for integrated work profile and personal profile support in the Android 5.0 Lollipop OS with "managed profile" APIs. Now, it offers a more comprehensive solution in the form of Android for Work. The app, which delivers secure mail, contacts, calendars, documents, browsing and access to approved work apps on the user’s work profile, can be completely managed by the IT department.
Android for Work is compatible with devices running the Android 4.0 operating system through to Android 5.0 Lollipop as well as the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It allows IT administrators to install, manage and safeguard business applications on work-specific profiles. In short, Android for Work offers a vast set of productivity and security tools, designed to simplify enterprise adoption.
Let’s explore the key features of Android for Work:
Hardware-based default encryption and admin-managed policies ensure that business data remains separate from personal content on Android devices. Android for Work keeps data safe from malware and private from unauthorised users in both the work and personal profile, meaning workers can safely use a single Android device for their every need.
Companies can either provide employees with devices, or configure work profiles on employee-owned devices. Administrators can remotely control all work-related policies, applications and data, and remove them without affecting workers’ personal data. If an employee leaves the company or a device is lost, IT will erase only the work apps, leaving personal content intact. Administrators can never view workers’ personal activities.
Android for Work allows users to switch seamlessly between work and personal apps, with the former badged to distinguish them from the latter in the launcher and recent apps list. Users will see the work icon in the status bar when they are using work apps.
App Deployment and Distribution
This platform makes it easy for administrators to deploy and distribute business apps from the Google Play store, as well as internal applications and resources, to Android devices. Android for Work comes pre-installed with Google’s suite of productivity apps, including email, contacts, calendar, Docs, Sheets and Slides. Google Play’s entire catalogue of premium business apps is also available for download.
Users who don’t have Google Apps for Work can opt for a full suite of secure productivity apps, specifically designed for Android for Work. This includes business email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and download management, offering complete EMM functionality in the Admin console, to expand the administrator’s current device management capabilities.
Google also provides an infrastructure that third-party EMM providers can use to build their own Android for Work solutions. Mobile app developers can create a single version of any Google Play app, which can be securely deployed to Android devices without alterations or wrapping.
Data, App and Device Security
Data security is of paramount importance when dealing with business data. By keeping work and personal profiles separate, with device-wide protection, companies can uphold data leakage prevention policies with ease. App security is enforced by deploying work apps through Google Play for Work. This prevents users from installing apps from unknown sources and applying app configurations. All Android for Work devices are protected with disk encryption, lock screen, remote attestation services and hardware-backed key store when available.
Android for Work is an amazing feature that can be used on millions of devices worldwide. Whilst uptake has been relatively cautious thus far, this magnificent MDM system is destined to be adopted on a massive scale on Google's Android platform. Forming a firewall between personal and work IDs, it enables IT departments to fully monitor work profiles, whilst ensuring complete privacy for workers’ personal data and apps.