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10 tips to turn Android into a business phone

By Jeff Vance, Network World
April 28, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Network World - Android has shot past BlackBerry to become the third most popular smartphone operating system in the world behind Symbian and the iPhone , according to StatCounter. In the U.S., however, the Android is now No.1, according to recent reports by comScore and Neilsen. These reports found Android trending upward for pretty much every demographic group studied. 

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So, even if your organization doesn't officially support Android, don't be surprised if your company's employees are finding workarounds and shortcuts to make their business data and apps available on their handset of choice. That said, Android's pedigree as a business-class phone is a short one. 

"BlackBerry and BlackBerry Enterprise Server [BES] are still the gold standard as far as the enterprise is concerned," says Christian Kane, an analyst with Forrester Research. "The early versions of Android didn't have the security features the enterprise requires, but that has changed. Each OS update raises the security bar and adds more features to appeal to the business community." 

Android still has some work to do to match the control and power of BES, but it's not as much work as you may think. Here are 10 tips for turning the Android into a rock-solid business-class phone. 

1. Lock those screens. In the enterprise, business-class phones must have numerous security features. Some are complex. Some are ridiculously easy. Let's start with the easy stuff. Most people unlock their screen simply by dragging a finger downward. That is the default. It doesn't have to be. Within "Settings" under "Security," you can set a more complex pattern for unlocking your screen or set a password PIN. 

2. Get Mobile Antivirus. With mobile malware hitting the Android Marketplace, you should make sure you have an antivirus program running. There are plenty of options available, many of them free. DroidSecurity and Lookout Mobile Security are two good ones. 

3. Get multifactor authentication. Third-party tools, such as SecureAuth and PhoneFactor, deliver multifactor authentication to the Android, so users can securely access enterprise applications. SecureAuth can even tie into ActiveDirectory in order to manage mobile user identities as stringently as if they were on the LAN. 

4. Use Google Apps to manage Android security policies. While it may not have the 450+ policies of BES, Google Apps can help you enforce security policies on the Android. Google Apps Device Policy Administration gives administrators the ability to enforce such policies as requiring passwords, encrypting data and setting screen-lock timeouts. This can also be used to remotely wipe lost or stolen devices. 

5. Adopt Mobile Device Management (MDM). Want to get even closer to BES-like functionality? It's possible with Android. The big difference, though, is Android is an open platform that encourages third-party development; thus, you'll have some decisions to make, since several MDM vendors deliver BES-like control over Android, iPhones and other mobile devices. According to Kane, Good Technology and Sybase's Afaria lead the pack. There are a number of challengers breathing down their necks, though, including AirWatch, BoxTone, MobileIron, and Zenprise. With MDM in place, you can encrypt data in motion, remotely enforce application password policies, remotely wipe enterprise data off of handsets, partition corporate data and set role-based access rights. 

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