Business travel with the iPad: Challenges and solutions

R. Paul Singh suggests some third-party apps that will benefit business users who are traveling with their iPad.

There are a lot of articles written about traveling with the iPad for pleasure but not enough to cover the issues for business travelers. In this blog, we address some of these challenges and solutions. If you really want to leave your laptop home and travel only with your iPad, can you do it? If so, what obstacles will you have to overcome?

Traveling needs

There are many reasons for business travel, but two primary reasons are attending meetings and conferences. If you are in a business where you need to create lots of content, then traveling with just an iPad may not be the right answer.

However, most people while traveling need access to the following:

  • Email/calendar/contacts
  • Web
  • Enterprise apps
  • Business document files - both online and offline (whether in private or public cloud)


This is one area that's very well covered by the iPad's native application. It allows you to sync your calendar, contacts, and email, irrespective of whether you are using Outlook/Exchange, Gmail, or Yahoo Mail. Yes, there are limitations — including only one signature type and limited email display and search — but for most purposes, the present system is adequate and works well.


Native Safari offers a pretty good web experience except for Flash. However, there are many third-party alternative browsers — such as Skyfire and Diigo — that do an even better job, and most of them are free in the App Store.

Enterprise apps

If your enterprise app is web-enabled and runs in Safari, the iPad is a good solution. For legacy app access, virtualization may be a better solution.

Business document files

Apple has no native support for this, but there are many third-party solutions available. However, most of them are sub-optimal. The various solutions available can be classified in the following categories:

  • Public cloud
  • Virtualization
  • Private cloud
Public cloud: These solutions — such as Dropbox, Box, and GoDocs for Google Docs — require that you put all of your desktop files into one of these services or decide ahead of time which files you may need and put them in these clouds for later access. Some of them offer solutions to locally sync files to your iPad but are generally lacking this capability for offline access. Virtualization/VNC/XDP: With these solutions — including VMWare, Wyse PocketCloud, Citrix GoToMyPC, and Logmein Ignition — your iPad takes control of a remote machine where all of the computing occurs. This technology works well for PC-to-PC access, but with the touch interface on the iPad, the user experience and performance is compromised significantly. Also, these solutions do require always-on connectivity to be effective. Private cloud: These solutions — like Pogoplug, Polkast, Oxygen V2, and Desktop Connect — may include users' desktops, company servers, or some other private company cloud behind a firewall. Some of these products are optimized for the iPhone and for entertainment purposes, while others like are optimized for the iPad and business. Syncing capability for offline access is generally limited, but it varies from product to product.

What do I want as a business user?

The majority of business users have their files in various locations — public clouds, their desktop, and company servers. As such, it's increasingly important to have easy access and the ability to search for these files no matter where they are located. It's also essential to be able to sync files and make them available offline on your iPad.


If your job doesn't require heavy content creation, you can load certain apps on your iPad and leave your laptop at home while traveling. Email and web access is built into the iPad, but if you need access to your computer documents (in both online and offline mode), then you will need to install third-party products. Most vendors provide access and sharing if you are willing to surrender all of your files to their private or public cloud solutions. However, as a business user, I want easy online and offline access to my documents no matter where they are located.

What solutions have you found that work for your organization? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

Editor's Picks