iPad

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)

Email/calendar/contacts

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.

Web

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.

Summary

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.

5 comments
cameronn
cameronn

I am sick of trying to stick a square peg in a round hole. It's time to be honest about this. As a personal device the ipad is fantastic - leader of the pack, as a managed enterprise device (emphasis on 'managed' and 'enterprise') it is a dog. If Apple are serious about the corpoarte (and education) markets they will put out a Mac Air Touch screen tablet or Mac Air Slate. Honestly if they keep treating us like idiots they are going to lose the business market to products like the Samsung Series 7 Slate.

danbi
danbi

I am surprised you did not include iCloud in the public cloud options. It is the native cloud environment for the iPad as well as tightly integrated with OS X (and more so in Mountain Lion), as well as available for Windows -- which I guess you presume most businesses run. I would prefer iCloud over any of the other 'free' cloud storage, any time. Also, it seems that Pogoplug is an public cloud offering as well. Same for Oxygen. Desktop Connect is also not a cloud application but rather remote desktop access application. This leaves only Polkast as private cloud in your list. What is 'business document files'? If these are the typical PDF, Office documents etc, there are native iPad applications that will view and even edit these. If these are some other, proprietary for your business formats, then you either need remote desktop or write your own iPad application.

danbi
danbi

All this 'manageability' is just software + iPads ARE manageable. There is already Apple Configurator, for OS X and Windows that does just that -- provision and manage iPads (and other iOS devices). The Macbook Air is an fantastic product, but it is just an slim and elegant, light etc. notebook -- or, from alternative view, just an very portable desktop. It is completely different product from the iPad and.. it is not very "manageable" if you ask Windows IT staff. Which speaks of their abilities, but that's different question altogether.

to_be_announced
to_be_announced

"it is not very "manageable" if you ask Windows IT staff. Which speaks of their abilities, but that's different question altogether. " Sweet. iDevices are managable. That's great! Oh, wait. You mean to tell me I have to install separate Apple software just to manage those devices. ***blah*** As a Windows IT staffer, why would I want to have to manage yet ANOTHER piece of software on top of the already high number just to be able to manage a couple devices that aren't very practical anyways. Seems like more overhead than it's worth if you ask me.

danbi
danbi

So, how is it 'manageable' on Windows? You don't install separate Microsoft software? It just manages itself.. by magic? Otherwise, I agree with you. You don't have to do it! Tell this your boss, when he comes next week with his new iPad and demand it works on "your" (or rather, his) network. Chances are, he could find someone else who is willing. No? And yes, do not blame Apple that you have lot's of Microsoft software to manage.

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