Tablets quite possibly represent the hottest trend in computing since the introduction of the personal computer. A broad range of devices support multiple operating environments, offer enterprise-class connectivity options and sport consumer-friendly price tags.
For users who mostly consume rather than produce content, tablets will become the computing device of choice. At a minimum, their light weight, ease of use, flexibility and convenience point to increasing popularity.
But making the best use of your tablet isn’t a slam-dunk. While tablets have long been used for healthcare, warehousing, logistics, transportation and similar purposes, we expect today’s tablets to handle essentially any application. With just a little work by IT staff, tablets can do exactly that. In public safety, agencies are already exploring the benefits of tablet computing. For example, one fire district in Washington recently traded in its Panasonic Toughbooks for ASUS tablets and found that the touch-screen interface worked remarkably well in the field.
What follows are some tips for easing the process of deploying tablets and making the most of your organization’s investment.
Adding a new device to your arsenal presents a great opportunity to review your key operational policies: security, acceptable use, network selection and personal liability (if you go the “bring your own device” route). Remind everyone regularly that the security of organizational information is of paramount concern, no matter what device is in use.
IT and network operations need visibility into the status of the device, and many even require more intensive control capabilities, such as being able to wipe a mobile device under some circumstances. Because users can download malicious applications, serious remediation may be required in some cases and should be acceptable as long as users understand the policies applied. Also, consider inventory management, a feature offered by many mobile-device management systems. If your IT department hasn’t yet explored MDM, tablet implementations provide a big motivation to do so.
What apps will users be allowed to run? Can they download whatever they want, or will the organization provision a private app store? Will you go with mostly local apps on the tablet, or expand your web and cloud services strategy? I recommend the latter to provide a greater degree of device independence. With all the tablets out there, managing apps for several platforms could become tricky. Verify browser compatibility, and make sure whatever you implement reflects your security policy. In an era of numerous compliance regulations, this is critical.
Tablets are fundamentally wireless — wired operation makes no sense in most cases. The load on your wireless LAN will almost certainly increase, continuously and over time, necessitating reconfigurations and upgrades in many cases. Spend some time exploring the management console of your WLAN to verify sufficient coverage, throughput, capacity and room for growth.
IT support professionals must develop expertise in tablet software and other facilities to minimize end-user downtime and thus maximize overall productivity. This calls for an investment in training. The more quickly problems are resolved, the more quickly people can return to work and the greater the return on investment.
When it comes to tablets, it’s not a question of if or even when. IT organizations can minimize the stress of supporting this important new class of mobile technology through a few simple activities that will benefit IT, users and the bottom line.