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Is Android Secure Enough for the Enterprise? Blog (1-19-2013)

Let’s just face it, the influence of Android in the mobile industry is huge. Its marketshare is huge and growing daily and it has finally succeeded in taking away mindshare from Apple’s iPhone. The question is, is it finally ready for primetime in the enterprise market?

The last thing we IT pros need is to be abused with huge amounts of security concerns from BYOD employees at our IT help desk or hit with a ton of emails from the executive team wondering how they can secure their Android devices. Neither the iPhone nor Android is as controllable or as secure as BBS, but the iPhone has a ton of apps that help bridge that gap. The issue is Android doesn’t.

The Benefits of Android
Before we get to the many difficulties in implementing Android in any BYOD strategy, let’s look at some of the reasons why Android is great for enterprise. The first reason is that there are many devices out there. This means that it will quell the thirst of almost anybody who wants to be different in their device selection.

Another benefit of Android in enterprise is that since it is open source, companies can write whatever software they need and not have to be approved by Apple. Apple does allow side loading of apps for business users, but it is not nearly as convenient as just providing a download package through a link on your website. A ton of companies have custom software that they utilize everyday. The ability to take that software mobile could be invaluable.

Dennis Baliton, writing for NetworkWorld sums up Android in the enterprise in a unique and geeky way:

“Java’s portability also means the Android framework can be run on a range of hardware, including devices from Samsung, LG, Motorola and HTC, and can be picked up by any hot newcomers. That means Android is not limited to a single mobile phone, tablet and music player and, what’s more, can be integrated with embedded hardware such as monitoring equipment, automated processes, robotics, etc.
The Java language is mature and well documented and much of the functionality of this extremely robust language has been ported to the Android framework. This allows developers to easily find APIs for their specific needs. From creating a custom bitmap, to leveraging helper functions, Java allows for a smoother experience for developers and engineers.” ~ Dennis Baliton
In other words, Apple’s Objective C sucks!

The Downside of Android
The customizability of Android aside, there are still some major concerns when implementing a BYOD policy that includes Android devices. The first is that Android doesn’t have the security apps that iOS does. There aren’t as many apps out there designed to help the company control corporate data. Whereas iOS has apps that can control email, instant messaging and document sharing, Android doesn’t have as many. That being said, the app selection is getting better. More and more enterprise app development firms are beginning to put their apps on Android, so the future here is much brighter.

Another disadvantage of Android is that there are so many devices. Each device comes from a different manufacturer which means different software to support. Unlike the iPhone where they all basically run the same version of iOS, Android has a severe fragmentation problem. Every device will have a different level of Android on it, will come preinstalled with crapware and a skin that only takes away from the secureness of Android, and each will be harder to develop those custom apps for because of the lack of one version of the OS.

While the selection of Android phones is great for employees, it is a nightmare for IT departments. If you utilize software that helps manage Android and iOS, you will probably come across some devices that don’t work with it.

The Solution
Android is coming to the enterprise, insecureness and fragmentation aside. The solution for IT departments and IT Help Desks is to make sure that when they come up with their BYOD guidelines, that it is clearly stated what devices employees can bring into and use at work. By severely limiting the number of different devices, the IT headache gets proportionately easier to live with. Instead of having hundreds of possible device combinations, you can limit your company to five or six. This will mean that you know going in that any software you ch0ose to help manage Android and iOS will work, since you won’t have unexpected devices on that network.

As we continue down this road of mobile innovation, Android and the enterprise will get along much better. More corporate security software will work with it, more apps will be introduced to help control corporate information, and hopefully Google will help solve the fragmentation issue. Since Android runs on an offshoot of Linux it will also be easier for IT departments and coders to work with it, and will help integrate those mobile devices with the already prevalent Linux server systems many corporations employ.
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