Sync Android with Google Apps or Microsoft Exchange
Using an Android phone in an organization that uses Google
Apps is easy, as you might expect. Add your Google Account to your phone
(usually in Settings | Accounts | Add account). Once connected, your email,
calendar and contacts sync between your phone and Google’s servers.
Lose your phone? No problem. Your Google Apps administrator
can remotely lock, locate, and wipe it. Even if you don’t use Google Apps, as
long as your phone runs Android 2.2 or above, you can remotely lock, locate and wipe your phones
with the Android Device Manager.
Similarly, using an Android phone in an organization that
uses Microsoft Exchange is also easy. Add your Microsoft Exchange Activesync account
to your phone (usually in Settings | Accounts | Add account). You may need to
obtain approval and customized login information from your system
administrator. Once connected, your email, calendar, and contacts sync between
your phone and your organization’s Microsoft Exchange servers.
As with Google Apps, if you lose your phone, your Microsoft
Exchange administrator can remotely lock and wipe it.
Trade convenience for control?
Syncing and remote control makes sense for devices owned by
the organization. The organization owns the device, syncs it, and controls it.
But if YOU own your phone, you might not want to give an
administrator the ability to remotely wipe it. I know I don’t want to do this.
Mobile browser access is one alternative to syncing. Open
your browser on your phone, and then login. Gmail and Google Calendar both
provide a mobile-friendly version in a browser. Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access
provides access to a web version of Outlook. Browser access doesn’t provide “push”
notifications of new emails, and tends to be less user-friendly than using
standard mobile mail, calendar, and contact applications. Overall, mobile
browser access isn’t convenient.
Another alternative is to sync data using other methods (or “protocols”).
For example, you may be able to sync your email using IMAP, which both Google Apps and Microsoft Exchange support. CalDav and iCAL,
similarly, are alternative calendar data protocols. However, prudent system
administrators shouldn’t allow this: you’d have the organization’s data, but
the organization would have no way to delete it. From a governance and security
perspective, these alternative sync methods lack sufficient organizational
Contained and controlled convenience for users
Fortunately, software lets you connect your phone to
Exchange, but limit the organization’s control. The concept is simple: create a
secure “bucket” that connects to your organization’s data. Your mail,
calendar, and other information will sync into this “bucket”. But if
the organization’s administrators initiate a remote wipe, only the
organizational information in the “bucket” is emptied. The rest of
the phone is left untouched.
Touchdown from Nitrodesk gives you exactly
such a secured, controlled container on your Android phone (a version is also
available for iOS devices). As with any mobile device, you may need to obtain
approval and customized login information from your system administrator. Once
connected, your email, calendar, and contacts sync between your phone and your
organization’s Microsoft Exchange servers, but all the data stays inside the
Touchdown app. The app costs $19.99 as of August 2013.
Touchdown syncs email, calendar, contacts and tasks in a single, secured
Divide from Enterproid functions both as an
Android launcher and a secured, controlled container. The launcher “divides”
your workspaces into work and personal containers. Divide not only connects to
Microsoft Exchange servers, but also to Google Apps accounts. So you could
setup your Android phone with a personal Gmail account, and use Divide to
connect to an organizational Google Apps account. The Divide app is free as of
Divide connects your device to either Microsoft Exchange or Google Apps
Divide seeks to “scale up” smoothly: they offer a
web-based mobile device management system. Even if your company doesn’t use
Divide to manage mobile devices, you can use the company’s
web interface to lock, locate, and wipe your device. Divide provides two
types of remote wipes: “Clear”, which erases all corporate data on
the device, and “Wipe”, which erases ALL data – corporate and
personal – on the device. The site also tracks network usage, which shows how
phone and data use divides between work and personal use. This feature may
increase the accuracy of your business phone expense reports.
The my.divide.com website offers remote management and data tracking.
The bottom line is that you may be able to connect your
personally owned Android device to your company’s enterprise Exchange or Google
Apps system, without giving up control over the device. Your device and data
remain under your control; the organization’s data remains under the organization’s
control. That’s something everyone can grok.
Let me know what your experiences with either Touchdown or
Divide have been in the comments below. Or, if you use a different solution, I’d
love to learn about it.