Office 365 vs Touchdown

TL;DR version

Some people are concerned about Office 365 being able to wipe personal devices when ActiveSync is enabled. Touchdown puts everything into a sandbox, works, and wipes will only affect the Touchdown application, not the entire device (even though a technical issue stopped me from testing it exactly). Currently it is $19.99 after the 30 day demo period expires.

Long-winded version

With the move to Office 365, there has been some discussion regarding the ability of ActiveSync Clients coming with the ability to wipe phones and do other sorts of things. In a higher-education market, this is somewhat concerning as we are not typically used to such controls.

Nevertheless, there is a solution for Android devices. It is called Touchdown. It comes with a 30 day demo.

Google Play:

Amazon Appstore:

The concept is that Touchdown will keep everything it downloads from Office 365 in a separate sandbox. Then if for some reason Office 365 is instructed to wipe your device, the sandbox will be destroyed but the rest of the phone is untouched.

On the negative side, this means that you must use Touchdown to do all of your email and calendaring. For example, with Touchdown you will not be able integrate your Office 365 calendar into your device’s calendars. This is the trade off of having everything in a sandbox.

Screenshots!

Lets take a look at what it looks like after install:

Touchdown main screen

Click on Configure your account, which brings up this screen:

Screenshot_2013-11-20-14-57-02-edited

Enter your email address and password, and click Next. That won’t find what we really need, so add more detail on the next screen:

Screenshot_2013-11-20-14-57-25-edited

And you’ve got another screen with reasonable defaults for security settings:

Config 3

Then, Touchdown will try to find a bunch of different protocols. Defaults to all of them, but ActiveSync is the one we really want:

Config 4

Clicking Next warns you this might take a while (didn’t for me):

Ready to start Configuration

Whirr Whirr

Whirr Whirr

If everything worked, you’ll see this screen:

Success

If things didn’t work, you might have to do what the people on this post did. I had some trouble, tried that, then tried again, and didn’t have the problem again. So I’m unsure if its necessary.

After you’re successfully connected, you’ll start syncing changes:

Syncing

After you’re synced up, you’ll see today’s mail:

Today

So, what about the wipe, Jeff?

The wipe, while happily nuking a stock Android, didn’t actually work with Touchdown. For some reason Office 365 couldn’t find my device. Here’s the screenshots after going to the gear -> Options:

wipe-2

wipe-3

wipe-4

So the wipe didn’t work. I did test it on an actual Android device, and yes, that wipe works as advertised.

But, could it have still wiped the device?

Since the app does not have wipe privileges, it cannot wipe the device. Here’s the full App info for Touchdown HD:

Screen 1 of 2:
Appinfo 1

Screen 2 of 2:
appinfo 2

Summary
If the thought of someone wiping your device is a deal-killer for your use of Office 365, consider the Touchdown app. It puts all the sensitive parts into a sandbox — those parts can be wiped by your server without wiping out your personal information.