Email on Android: Too many choices?
The mobile email client you choose for your business will depend on a variety of factors such as the Android device types you need to support, whether the native Android email experience is important to you and security considerations like how you deal with email attachments. This post discusses some of the available options for enterprise email on Android with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, as well as the features that might be important for you.
1. Native Google Android email client
Some Android devices will simply have the native Google email client for Android. This is the most basic client and is lacking in terms of enterprise control. Enterprise mobility management (EMM) systems will not be able to manage this client, as the Google Android platform does not provide the necessary management hooks allowing control over the client’s features.
2. Device manufacturer email client
Some manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC and Motorola have added some management capabilities to extend the basic Google Device Administration application programming interfaces (APIs). Using these hooks, EMM systems in the market have introduced support for these features. This allows an additional measure of control over a subset of the Android devices that might be connecting to your enterprise.
An example is Samsung SAFE (Samsung Approved for Enterprise), Samsung’s custom Android mobile device management API. Management systems that support this API can install, configure and remove an Exchange ActiveSync profile on the device.
3. Enterprise mobility management email client
EMM vendors have also recently begun to produce their own email client for Android. The MobileIron approach, for example, is to take the native Google mail client as a starting point, add their own specific enterprise management controls and produce a “secure” version of this client that also takes advantage of MobileIron AppConnect features (in this case keeping email and attachments within a secure MobileIron container on the device).
Advantages of this approach are that the native Android user experience is maintained and that the secure email client usually involves no additional cost once the enterprise is already deploying the specific EMM system. Although these applications allow management control over email, they may not provide the same capabilities for calendar and contact data.
4. NitroDesk TouchDown email client
The TouchDown email client from NitroDesk is a fully managed email, calendar and contacts client for your Android devices. One immediate advantage is that it runs on all versions and flavors of Android, so you are not restricted to specific manufacturers.
The TouchDown client also has management APIs that allow EMM systems like IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices to configure the email application. This provides in-depth control over what users can do within the email client on their device such as keeping users from cutting and pasting text, sharing contacts with other apps or opening attachments with other apps on the device.
5. Fully containerized email client
Another approach to securing email on Android devices is the idea of containerization—controls that create and maintain completely separate environments for work and personal data, including email. Some implementations are at the device operating system level such as Samsung KNOX, but again these are restricted to specific devices from that manufacturer. Other implementations like Good for Enterprise or Enterproid Divide provide the separation at the application level and have the advantage of support across the full range of Android devices at the expense of additional infrastructure or licensing costs.
IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices also supports integration with Enterproid Divide, allowing Android devices to be managed through the Divide device container solution.
IBM Global Technology Services: Supporting your enterprise
There are trade-offs between the various types of email solutions available for Android devices. Ultimately the enterprise will need to balance considerations like the user experience against other capabilities like security policies, licensing and email infrastructure costs.
IBM Mobile Infrastructure Strategy and Planning offers a range of consulting capabilities that assess your current mobile environment against industry best practices, identify the important aspects of mobility for your enterprise and help you build a successful business case for your mobile initiatives.
IBM Mobile Enterprise Services for managed mobility is designed to help reduce the complexity, risk and higher costs that come with a proliferation of mobile platforms. Our robust solution provides lifecycle services and advanced mobile device management, helping you improve control with enterprise-strength mobile security and governance policies.How is your organization managing email for Android devices? Leave a comment below.