It’s all Android, right? Wrong, the manufacturer matters.

It’s-all-Android_-right-Wrong_-the-manufacturer-matters (1)

The march of Android devices into businesses continues apace and there is plenty that appeals about the operating system but Jon Tucker warns to be careful about the device you choose. The manufacturer matters much more with Android.

There is plenty to like about Android as a choice of operating system for your Enterprise mobile computing devices. It’s user friendly, light on battery use and easily configurable and manageable for your mobile workforce needs. Google has been investing heavily in the Android Enterprise operating system and that investment is paying off but there are some important factors to consider when choosing the right device for your business – particularly around security and updates.

People often say to me, it’s all Android, right? But that can be a costly mistake to make. With Enterprise Android devices, the manufacturer of the device has a much more important role to play in maintaining and updating the Android Enterprise operating system, than say a Windows device. In Android devices, the manufacturer matters.

In a BBC news article, Kate Bevan, the Which? Computing editor, said: “It’s very concerning that expensive Android devices have such a short shelf life before they lose security support, leaving millions of users at risk of serious consequences if they fall victim to hackers. Google and phone manufacturers need to be upfront about security updates – with clear information about how long they will last and what customers should do when they run out.”

The Watchdog organisation was highlighting its finding that more than a billion Android devices are at risk of being hacked because they are no longer protected by security updates. Anyone using an Android phone released in 2012 or earlier should be especially concerned, it said.

Now this report was not particularly pointing out concerns with Android devices in the business world but the concerns are relevant nevertheless. We have all seen the potential disastrous consequences that security hacks in business can deliver to operations and the reputations of those organisations that suffer. Ransomware like WannaCry can shut down vital operations, data leaks can lead to major regulatory fines and a critical loss of customer confidence. The risks are endless.

The issue here is that when businesses buy an Android Enterprise device for their mobile workforce, they are not dependant on just Google for patches and updates – but the device manufacturer as well. It is the manufacturer that has to take the latest Android update and tailor it for its own devices. The problem being that some manufacturers are much more frequent than others in providing these updates and their commitment to the length of time they will continue to provide these updates also varies greatly.

Surprisingly, being the fastest to update is not always the best in the Enterprise world. It should be best practice to let the initial bugs of a new OS come to light and be fixed before rolling it out across your estate of devices. A bug to an Android consumer user can be irritating but for a business losing productivity, it can be a costly mistake to avoid.

The key is to look for an Android Enterprise device manufacturer that has a relatively small number of specialist devices in its portfolio, so that updates can happen regularly across the range. Then, importantly, consider the length of Android support offered for the device. Enterprise devices, especially rugged ones, are often in service well beyond the typical 2-3 years. Will the device be supported beyond the two years that Google provides updates and beyond its product end of life?

Then, finally, look for a manufacturer that has experience of rolling out Enterprise grade operating systems and updates to organisations where uptime is critical. These organisations understand that a stable, thoroughly tested and reliable platform is critical to its customers.

Even if I do say so myself, Panasonic is one of the leaders in this area. Having worked with defence and emergency services organisations around the world for many years, we understand the importance of being a critical solutions provider. For those using our rugged Android devices, we are a partner in the Android Enterprise Recommended programme for devices and offer our own Panasonic COMPASS support – Complete Android Services and Security.

COMPASS is a portfolio of tools and services making it easy for you to configure, deploy, manage and secure your Panasonic Android devices. It provides the reassurance that your devices are both enterprise ready and secure for their entire operational life. COMPASS comprises of five essential elements but one of those, COMPASS Security, provides a complete support solution for Toughbook Android devices. The optional premium Security Service provides regular security patches for up to three years after product end of life and can be extended by an additional two years ensuring your mobile estate is fully protected for their service life. COMPASS Air also uses firmware over the air technology to provide firmware updates, security patches, system application upgrades and driver fixes direct your end users devices to deploy when, where and to which devices you choose.

So, as you can probably tell by now. All Android devices aren’t equal. It’s important to thoroughly scrutinise your device provider’s policy around Android support. I hope it helps when choosing your next Android device.

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