Google has always been thoughtful about how enterprises can best leverage its Android operating system for business. Today, Android is gaining grounds as one of the most preferred operating systems, which is powering a number of devices like smartphones, tablets, mPOS, digital signage, and Android-based RFID readers. Thanks to the introduction of Android Enterprise (formerly known as Android for Work). Google introduced Android Enterprise to eliminate real-world enterprise problems and challenges around device security, data protection, device management, and application usage. Before we dig deeper about Android Enterprise, let’s see why it was needed by businesses?
Enterprise challenges before the introduction of Android Enterprise (or AFW)
Before the year 2010, when Android Device Administrator API (for Android 2.2) was introduced for the first time, Android never had any enterprise management features. This API enabled EMM vendors to build agent applications in order to perform and enforce certain policies. The individual device manufacturers had the option to build and offer more advanced enterprise features by adding their own Android management APIs. This varied management options open to OEMs created chaos and fragmentation in the market. Companies who provided devices to the employees could standardize the set of features on one particular device. But the problem happened when BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) came into the picture allowing employees to bring in their own phones at work, which created a heterogeneous mobile environment leading to difficult times for the IT management.
How Android Enterprise came to be?
Google announced the launch of Android for Work in 2014 and it appeared in stages starting from Android 5.0, 5.1 and 6.0. In 2017, it has been renamed as Android Enterprise. Even though Android holds 80% of the total global smartphone market, companies had avoided Android adoption majorly due to concerns around data security and insufficient management capabilities. Google’s Android Enterprise has changed that by introducing major improvements in management functionalities and business security. Google had tirelessly worked on improving its versions and ensured its consequential success with enterprises.
The enhanced version possessed varied enterprise-level features that enabled company IT teams to seamlessly enroll, provision and manage company devices through third-party EMM vendors. The significance and role of Android Enterprise are most prominent in companies that embrace and include an active BYOD policy enabling employees to work from their personal devices.
Android Enterprise for BYOD scenario
In the case of BYO devices, it basically separates the user’s personal information from the work-related data and apps with the help of containerization. Today, most Android devices in the market support the Android Enterprise features.
It does so by creating a separate work profile like a restricted and managed environment that appears as a folder with a sign of a briefcase on it. Having Android Enterprise set on a device means that the EMM vendor will have some control over the device when it comes to monitoring and managing the work profile and the business apps and enterprise data contained within.
This is how Android Enterprise works for Employee-Owned Devices (BYOD)
- A device is supposed to be configured with two separate profiles – one for personal use and the other for professional purpose. The work profile will contain corporate content and business apps with a badge of a briefcase to differentiate them from personal apps. This separation can be applied while enrolling the device in an Android Device Management software with the help of an EMM vendor who takes care of the technical details like security, user management, containerization, etc.
- The EMM vendor can apply policies to keep the enterprise data within the work profile secure and separate from the personal profile and data. Having complete control over the work profile, the IT admin can install/uninstall/manage business apps, content, credentials and can enforce dynamic policies, disable certain functionalities, manage password policies and separate lock screens within the work profile to avoid any sort of data leakage.
- Under BYOD policy, after creating a separate work profile, the user can still use his/her own device for personal usage. The two separate profiles need to be secured with different lock screens and passcodes wherein the work profile will contain all the business-specific content, apps and information and the personal profile will contain all the rest of the information. The EMM vendor applies security settings wherein the work data cannot be copied, shared or intermingled with the personal data.
- The separate work profile can be managed, monitored and secured by the company IT admin (in accordance with the EMM policies and features) who can also enable or disable the entire business profile and can perform tasks like silently updating apps, applying security policies, etc. In the case of device loss or theft, the IT admin can also remotely wipe the data stored under the work profile. But all these are done without compromising or intruding the personal data and information of the device user.
Android Enterprise for Corporate Owned Devices
In case of organizations who seek to provide corporate-owned devices to its employees, Android Enterprise offers several robust management features and security policies. Here, companies can follow two options – either to fully manage and control the devices (Android 5.0+) along with the apps and content, which are issued to the employees for work purpose, or to fully manage the devices with a work profile (Android 8.0+).
In case of fully managed deployments, the corporate-owned devices are solely used for just work purposes and the company IT admin can enforce a full range of management policies as well as device-level policies (not available to the work profiles) to control the entire device and its usage.
In the case of fully managed deployments with a work profile, the company does manage the entire corporate-owned device but allows the employees to use the device for both work and personal work. Here the work profile including work data and apps is kept separate and is managed by the company with stronger policy controls, and the personal profile including personal apps and data will also be controlled by the IT admin with a lighter set of policies.
There is another type of deployment wherein company-a owned devices are used only for a particular kind of business purposes often called dedicated use. Here too, Android Enterprise offers a broad spectrum of management features that enable companies to deploy devices for multiple use cases like employee-facing devices used in harsh environments like mines and construction sites (rugged devices) and customer-facing devices (kiosks, mPOS and digital signages) used to fulfill specific business purposes. Dedicated devices can be locked into a single or multi-app kiosk mode.
Google’s Android Enterprise has enabled organizations to leverage Android along with its comprehensive set of security and management features that would help them integrate Android devices within the enterprise scenario with total ease and efficiency. Android devices managed by an EMM solution like Scalefusion act like powerful productivity tools that empower the company IT team to drive precision, security and operational excellence across the teams.
The beauty of Android Enterprise or AFW lies in the fact that the device users can seamlessly use their personal devices at work without even feeling any difference in the user experience. The separation between personal and work profile is smooth and the EMM functionality remains hidden unless the authorized user accesses the work profile to meet the business purpose. The involvement of a dependable EMM partner like Scalefusion with robust and enterprise-grade features makes BYOD adoption easy and effortless for companies and seamlessly puts the control of the business profile who it should belong to – the company IT team.