Why you should require employees to use work profiles on Android devices

The growth of the mobile workforce has become one of the most prolific trends in the business world. But with that increased convenience comes a whole raft of new security concerns. If your business uses smartphones, either in the form of company-owned devices or a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, it’s critical that you have a solid mobile device management (MDM) strategy in place.

While Blackberry devices may have dominated in the workplace not too long ago, Google’s Android operating system has become the industry leader in the world of enterprise mobile devices. Over the last couple of years, the developers of Android have released many important security updates and other features aimed towards business users. These updates are part of the Android for Work program.

The latest change announced by Google concerns the ability to assign work profiles to employee-owned devices, which will prove useful for any company with a BYOD policy. Android work profiles, which were first introduced in 2015, are designed to enable organizations to manage business apps and data as a separate entity, while leaving everything else to the end-user’s control.

Centralised management for work-related apps and data
The problem with BYOD is that companies have far less control over the way employees manage their own devices. After all, no one wants to surrender their personal data to their employer so that they can use their device for work. On the other hand, BYOD can mean sacrificing corporate security, which is an unacceptable risk at a time when cybersecurity attacks are on the rise.

Work profiles for Android devices are intended to bridge the gap between corporate security concerns and employee privacy. Users will be able to enroll in a company-operated program as part of its MDM policy while keeping their personal apps and data to themselves. Additionally, users will be able to opt out whenever they want, although this may involve losing access to company apps and data, depending on your MDM policy.

Why should you care?
Android work profiles offer important benefits to all parties concerned. By keeping work-related and personal apps and data separate, administrators will be able to curate and whitelist apps for business use using a managed Google Play store. At the same time, administrators will be unable to access or erase personal data.

By enabling a work profile, administrators will retain complete control over any apps and data associated with it. For example, if the device gets lost or stolen, or a user decides to opt out of the program, administrators will be able to remotely wipe any data associated with the work profile without touching personal data such as emails, photos and other content.

Starting in June 2017, Google will require users to create a work profile on their own devices when enrolling in a BYOD policy with businesses that use Google’s enterprise mobility management (EMM) system. However, businesses will be able to opt out of the feature if they wish. The upcoming changes won’t have any effect on company-owned devices operated under Google’s EMM.

The drawbacks of not adopting a work profile
For employees who still want to access company-operated apps and data, not adding a work profile will mean that the company will still be able to make changes that affect the whole device. By using the work profile feature, however, any company-related apps will be marked by a briefcase icon overlay, while all work-related data is stored in a separate container on the device. Ultimately, work profiles benefit end users by allowing them to maintain their privacy and control over their own devices while also simplifying MDM for business IT departments.

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