September 11, 2023

Why an OS version management tool is a must for IT admins

Samsung Knox Team
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OS management is a more challenging practice to master than it may first seem, like so many other tasks in enterprise mobility management. 

Experienced administrators all have horror stories from times they’ve been ill-equipped for an OS update… and the consequences they’ve faced as a result. Usually, these tales are told right before they make you promise to use an OS management tool for future OS updates, like Samsung’s Knox E-FOTA


What is OS management? And why it is critical for enterprise mobility

OS (Operating System) management is how IT teams check, test, and deploy OS updates–which improve functionality, efficiencies, stability, and remove vulnerabilities–to mobile devices. 

When a customer updates their Android OS, the process could be seen as cumbersome and sometimes disruptive but is often accepted as-is. But for a mission-critical business with anywhere from tens of thousands of devices to update at once, managing an update rollout is a critical task that requires preparation, caution, and testing. As you can see, relying on such a consumer-oriented method is not optimal. 

Before launching a major OS update (whether for an employee’s work phone or the devices of your entire workforce) owners and administrators alike must consider the following risks:

  • Existing customer apps might not be ready for the change. New major OS versions often come with underlying functionality changes or even deprecations that could affect the behavior of the existing apps that were optimized for the previous OS version.
  • End users need time for adjustment. Expect a transition period with new OS as users adapt to changes to the user interface or new features, perhaps losing personalized profiles or data they have come to rely on in the process.

The above issues threaten productivity, both to the employees who need to use devices that may be rendered useless by a bad update, and to the IT admins who will have to handle these crises, pushing back other vital tasks on their plate. 

Proper operating system management and monitoring tools can defend against these risks and provide even more benefits for administrators to exploit.

Enforced compliance is one such benefit and a flagship feature of OS management, because when employees are free to update their work devices as and when they please, businesses invite a serious problem: OS fragmentation. 


Why OS fragmentation poses a risk to your efficiency (and much more)

OS fragmentation (a phenomenon IT admins dread) occurs when some devices in a fleet have been updated to a new OS version while others haven’t, and the fleet remains split across multiple versions. When that’s the case, IT management becomes vastly more challenging. 

Major app compatibility issues are just one of the problems worsened by OS fragmentation. 

OS updates might break a business-critical app unexpectedly. Under normal circumstances, IT teams clear off their schedules and start working on a fix.

But when OS fragmentation is a factor and a crucial app breaks because of an unsanctioned OS update, app development teams break into a cold sweat as they wave goodbye to their weekend and hello to delivering a hot fix. With multiple OS versions in play, IT admins need to develop and test multiple versions of critical apps at once, exponentially increasing the amount of work needed to fix the problem. In this way, OS fragmentation can lead to app version fragmentation as well. 

This is to say nothing of the greatest risk that OS fragmentation poses: security vulnerabilities, and a reduction to IT agility. If a threat emerges and essential patches need to be deployed at high speeds with accuracy, OS fragmentation again means more testing is required, so more time is required. That might mean living with vulnerabilities for longer than necessary. The stakes are high in an OS update deployment scenario at any business. To reduce risk in facing these and other challenges, IT admins rely on solutions like Knox E-FOTA.


Reliable OS version management with the right tools 

Samsung Knox E-FOTA is synonymous with OS management. E-FOTA—or, Enterprise Firmware Over The Air—does what you expect from the name and a whole lot more. It grants unparalleled control over the Android OS and firmware versions in Samsung mobile device fleets in an effort to ensure devices operate on the OS version best suited for your business.  

  • Selective OS updates. Part of its charm is its selective update feature, which allows IT to help check that a given update is ready for deployment and that it can be pre-tested to ensure compatibility with your mission-critical business apps. That alone eliminates significant risks to the productivity of a mobile-enabled enterprise. Specifically, Knox E-FOTA has the ability to update Samsung devices with a fully tested and compatible OS version. Samsung prepares various OS versions for business customers, ensuring the most reliable OS version can be updated. This capability guarantees app stability without any security concerns, as only thoroughly tested OS versions are deployed. In addition, Knox users can employ beta-testing on sample devices first and deploy fully qualified OS versions to Samsung devices with no unwanted surprises.
  • Help ensure fleet compliance. Using Knox E-FOTA also means that, instead of relying on traditional B2C firmware over-the-air (FOTA) processes which can be untimely, IT admins get to determine if and when a device is updated, so they don’t have to live with the fear of OS fragmentation.
  • Granular update options. The control Knox E-FOTA grants isn’t just powerful, it’s intelligent. Want to segment a group of devices so you can properly beta test a new OS in-the-field before pushing it to the wider workforce? Or define device state criteria that must be met before updating, like minimum battery life, download/update action time window or Wi-Fi connectivity, to minimize unwanted disruptions? Knox E-FOTA grants that power. And with the ability to set the optimal update schedule, updates can be executed outside of business hours, ensuring no disruption to productivity. Furthermore, it allows IT admins to commit to gradual rollouts instead of an all-at-once deployment, providing them with greater granularity over OS updates.

The granular OS version control management capabilities of Knox E-FOTA for reliable OS updates leads to smooth operations and maximized productivity. Let’s explore how. 


Simplifying deployment and management 

12,000 employees work for Colruyt, a Belgian supermarket chain, in more than 220 CLP discount stores across the country. Each of these employees were equipped with outdated devices designed with just one function. Colruyt decided to replace these with Samsung XCover Enterprise Edition handsets, ruggedized for workplace demands, to equip their growing workforce with an efficient, single-device solution.  

The standout feature of Galaxy Enterprise Edition lies in its inclusion of *Knox Suite, enabling efficient management of the complete enterprise mobility journey, encompassing device setup and ongoing administration (*1-year Knox Suite license included). Thanks to streamlined device setup capabilities of Knox Suite, replacing the fleet was easy. The Knox security platform integrated into the hardware and software of each handset protected against malware and other malicious threats as soon as the device was turned on. 

The next challenge was in how to maintain that level of protection through routine software updates. 

But picture this: an update is triggered in the middle of a busy workday for this supermarket giant. Business-critical devices are shut down for what may be a lengthy update process and productivity screeches to a halt as employees are forced to wait for an OS update before they can scan items, communicate with colleagues, and even sell to customers. 

The potential for an uncontrolled, disruptive update like that is what makes Knox E-FOTA, included in Knox Suite, invaluable for OS management. 

At midnight, while stores are closed, Colruyt uses Knox E-FOTA to test, schedule, and finalize a roll out of fully tested OS updates to their entire fleet. 

That’s more than 12,000 devices updated without impacting work hours, bothering employees, or terrifying IT admins. That’s 12,000 employees remotely prepared for work at the press of a button. 


Final notes on OS management

OS updates will always be a part of IT management, thankfully: without them, devices would remain vulnerable to every malware vector and bug discovered. While updating to a new version will, (most of the time), run very few risks, OS management tools like Knox E-FOTA mitigate the chance of painful disruptions to business and reduces the on-going OPEX cost (administrative, support, and more) of company-wide OS and firmware updates. IT teams simply can’t afford to update without one.

If you’re interested in using Knox E-FOTA: Knox E-FOTA is included in Knox Suite, which is an all-in-one UEM bundle featuring a robust OS management tool. You can even get a free 90-day trial. Even if you’re already using a different EMM, you can still integrate Knox E-FOTA into your EMM to streamline and enhance OS version control for Samsung mobile devices.