Google’s new business-centric Android apps draw a line between work and play on mobile devices, helping you crack down on ‘shadow IT’.
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is no longer a technology buzz phrase, it’s simply a fact of life in many businesses. With or without their manager’s blessing, people want to use their powerful smartphones and tablets to make their lives easier – whether they’re working in an airport lounge or at home lounging on the couch.
If your staff are pushing to use their personal devices for work purposes, perhaps it’s better to embrace BYOD instead of fighting a cat and mouse battle against ‘shadow IT’ – unauthorised in-house technology which flies under the IT department’s radar.
Rather than risk your staff secretly using consumer-grade tools to manage sensitive work information, potentially putting the business at risk, it might make more sense to grant staff access to the business-grade BYOD tools they need. Now you can keep everything under the watchful eye of your IT team.
This is where Android for Work comes in, helping a business and its staff better manage personal devices which are sometimes used for work purposes, or vice versa. Rather than an all-or-nothing approach to locking down mobile devices, Android for Work aims to strike a balance between personal freedoms and business security – regardless of who owns the device.
Devices running Android 5.0 “Lollipop” support the creation of work profiles, which let you apply different security rules to business-focused apps.
There’s support for Microsoft Exchange, Google Apps for Work and IBM Notes. A new Google Play for Work app store is also coming, with the ability for your IT department to specify which business-centric apps staff can install. Your IT team can also purchase business apps in bulk and automatically install them remotely.
The use of work profiles allows staff to log into two Google accounts simultaneously on their
Android device: their personal account and their work-issued business account. Thankfully Google has worked hard to reduce the impact that this has on the user experience. You don’t need to manually jump between work and personal mode and it’s even possible to keep icons for work and play side-by-side in your app launcher. There’s an orange briefcase logo on icons to indicate that they’re business apps, with restrictions to stop you copying business information to personal apps.
Of course older Android devices can be left in the lurch when it comes to OS upgrades like the leap to Android 5.0. Thankfully the Android for Work app is backwards compatible as far as Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”, helping recreate some of the new security features on older devices.
This Android for Work app will offer secure email, calendar, contacts, document editing and web browsing as well as access to approved work apps. This kind of granular control makes it much easier to lock down the business features of BYOD devices without impinging on the way staff use their personal apps. For example, if a staff member leaves the business, or simply loses their handset, then the IT manager can block access to business information or even remotely wipe that data. Meanwhile, staff can use their personal apps with the knowledge that their boss can’t view or erase personal content like family photos.
If you’re fighting to keep BYOD at bay in your business, or forcing staff to carry around two phones, then Android for Work might be the security solution you’ve been waiting for.
David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national on-site computer repair and support company.