With Android for Work, Your Rugged Tablets Will Work Better for You

It’s common knowledge that between BYOD strategies and the rise of business-class mobile computers, many companies are trying to make devices better suited for consumer applications work within enterprise mobility environments. Yes, it may seem like you’re saving money when you buy a less-expensive off-the-shelf tablet PC for your military, factory, warehouse, public safety, energy, transportation, or field operations. But put a non-ruggedized tablet to work on a piece of heavy machinery, on a flight line near a jet engine, on a fire truck without shocks – or anywhere that water, dust, vibrations, fuels, grease, or salt fog is prevalent – and that device isn’t going to work for very long. Even if it does have a “rugged” case. That means that “buy in bulk” discount you may have received to further lower the price of off-the-shelf computers even more is going to become irrelevant. You’re going to end up buying replacements so often – perhaps even less than the 1-2 years churn common for commercial grade devices – that you’ll spend more money supplying multiple mobile devices per worker or workflow.

That being said, my goal today was not to focus on the pros and cons of rugged vs. non-rugged devices today – at least not from a durability perspective. Rather, I want to address another differentiator that is just as impactful on the Total Cost of Ownership for mobile devices but not always given due consideration: the OS. But not Windows vs. Android. Each organization has their very valid reasons why they prefer one over the other, and Xplore supports both so we’re certainly not in a position to advocate more strongly for either side.

Rather, I want to talk about the challenges many businesses – even enterprise-level organizations – are facing by hoping that consumer-grade devices, with stock Android software, will suffice for their very complex and sensitive workflows. For starters, a consumer-grade Android experience will not empower your mobile personnel to elevate their productivity because you will be challenged to deliver the workflow support they need.

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Anyone who has ever purchased an older Windows Mobile device, probably a handheld, will confirm that the “mobile” OS version presented limitations to the types of business applications that could be delivered on that device. Workers still needed to have a second fully capable computer within reach to complete many tasks, and it was hard to establish the business case for that OS as many organizations sought to consolidate multiple PCs into a single device that could fully support mobile workers. Thus the move by Microsoft to set an end-of-life date for Windows Mobile, and the industry-wide shift to equip rugged tablets with genuine, full-version Windows suites – the same Windows 10/8.1/7 Professional that you would find on a desktop or laptop.

But the accelerated arrival of Android devices in the workplace has brought us full circle once again. To a certain extent. Some credit BYOD programs with catapulting Android into the business world. Others say the business case for Android devices has always been clear to IT teams: They offer a great deal of application flexibility and built-in security. No matter the motivation for moving to an Android-powered workforce, businesses need to ensure they’re not making it harder on themselves by accidently deploying the wrong Android solutions. (And I’m not talking about device form factor, though Android tablets do present a much stronger business case than handhelds.) I’m referring to the need for organizations to distinguish between consumer-grade and professional-grade Android solutions.

Sending workers into the field with a rugged tablet that’s running stock Android OS isn’t going to protect your data – or even that device – like you expect. On the flip side, a rugged tablet that’s been tested and certified to work perfectly within the Android for Work™ environment will give you an even greater return on investment than you expected. Here’s why:

Rugged tablets are more apt to be used in manufacturing, public safety, energy, government, transportation and similar environments where massive volumes of sensitive data are being transmitted to widely dispersed mobile workers and, therefore, remote device management and data security is mandatory. Therefore, they are typically purpose built – internally and externally – to accommodate enterprise-level mobility requirements, including security. That means that they *should* be certified to support the standard Google APIs required for Mobile Device Management (MDM) or Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions to do their job. Such solutions provide the critical software infrastructure that organizations of all sizes, and across all industries, require on their mobile devices . And MDM/EMM solutions from MobileIron, SOTI, and AirWatch by VMWare all leverage Android for Work™ middleware to provide the security and device management that enable your workers’ Android mobile devices to be safe and up-to-date:

  • Control: Easily – and fully – manage the mobility experience, including a range of workflows
    - Deploy, configure, secure, and upgrade the rugged tablets remotely
    - Connect to the Android for Work profile, allowing whitelisted applications to be installed.
    - Adjust device settings and policies
  • Security: Provide secure containers on rugged tablets and manage network security remotely
    - Encrypt the whole Android device using technology similar to PC device encryption
    - Create a work profile that completely isolates business data/applications from personal data/applications on workers’ employer-issued devices, even blocking personal assets from interaction with corporate infrastructure
    - Ensure that only enterprise-authorized applications are granted access to the corporate infrastructure. It will also aid in keeping other user applications separated and even blocked from interaction with corporate infrastructure.

Remember, though, choosing an MDM/EMM certified rugged tablet is not only critical to the security and manageability of your mobile workforce. This one “feature” decision – choosing a rugged tablet that’s proven to work well within the Android for Work environment – can significantly improve your entire mobility solution’s TCO and, therefore, improve your bottom line. 

Do Rugged Tablets Really Cost More Than Any Other Mobile PC Option?

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