Harnessing Tablet Technology for Your Small-Business Needs

If you’re a small-business owner considering a computer upgrade, chances are you’ve at least entertained a tablet. These portable and increasingly powerful devices are fast on their way to replacing desktop and even laptop computers. International Data Corporation reported in May that tablet sales grew 142% from 2012’s first quarter to 2013—and that PC sales dropped more precipitously in the same period than any time since numbers were first tracked in 1994. Additionally, IDC predicts that, by 2015, tablet sales will surpass sales of notebooks and desktops combined.

Tablets certainly have downsides, particularly for the small-business community. Display screens only top out at around 10 or 11 inches; additional accessories like cases and keyboards are necessary to improve productivity; and storage capabilities still lag woefully behind traditional computers. But efficiently utilizing a tablet in your small-business setting is possible—especially with the help of a knowledgeable friend like CMIT Solutions.

So Here Are Five Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Tablet, Along with Five of Our Favorite SMB-Friendly Apps:

Tablet Tips:

1) Decide which operating system works for you. The choices here are clear and somewhat mirror those available to a PC or laptop buyer: Apple, Google, or Microsoft. And the answer should be fairly easy, as well—if you use Apple products, the company’s iOS platform will probably work best for you. Google’s Android operating system is available across a wide range of tablets and offers more customization capabilities than iOS. Microsoft has recently waded into the OS game with its dedicated Windows RT system, which looks like Windows 8 and even comes with a version of Office 2013. In addition, Windows 8 is available on some third-party tablets and tablet/notebook hybrids, known as “convertibles.”

2) Target the productivity software you need. Most tablets will handle any mail program, but document, spreadsheet, and presentation requirements can be a bit trickier. All Windows tablets will run Microsoft Office, and an iOS-compatible version of the industry standard was recently released. But it’s only available via a subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud service, and the program is optimized for the iPhone 5, not the iPad. Other productivity fixes do exist, though: Google Drive is a free cloud-based option for editing nearly any kind of file, while inexpensive apps like iWork ($30 for iOS) and Quickoffice ($20 for iOS or Android) are also available.

3) Consider data storage options. Most tablets come with 16, 32, or 64 GB hard drives, which are minuscule compared to the 1 TB and higher capacities of laptops and desktops. But relying on CMIT Solutions to manage cloud-based data storage can free your tablet up from serving as a bona fide external hard drive.

4) Think about expanding your wireless access. All tablets contain powerful built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. But if you’re considering using your tablet for business purposes, anytime/anywhere mobile broadband connectivity may be up your alley. Many carriers offer affordable tablet-only broadband options—and many mobile plans may include broadband service as part of your existing data allotment.

5) Don’t overlook the importance of tablet security. A device that’s constantly portable can also be constantly vulnerable. Luckily, CMIT Solutions understands the need for a layered security system that encompasses everything from network access control settings to mobile device management solutions.

Got Your Tablet Dialed In for Small-Business Use? Consider These Top Apps, Which Are All Great for Efficiency and Productivity:

1) Kingsoft Office: Can’t access Microsoft Office on your tablet? This free Android app is the top free business download in the Google Play store and lets you create, view, and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, along with PDFs.

2) Evernote: Available on all mobile platforms, Evernote is perfect for small-business downtime. Type notes, sketch outlines, copy websites, paste photos, and record audio with this free app. Best of all, everything syncs to Web or desktop versions of Evernote.

3) Google Maps: The new version of this standby classic is free, available on all devices, and offers voice guidance, smart searches, awesome Street View options, and great sync abilities.

4) TripIt: With travel comes piles of travel information, but the free TripIt app tracks all of your emails and itineraries, summarizing them into detailed lists of links, phone numbers, and confirmation codes.

5) Skype: Video chat has quickly become the industry standard in web-based communication, and Skype is still the easiest to use. If you have a Wi-Fi connection, it’s totally free; if not, the per-minute rates are ultra-competitive and offer far more interaction than an old-school telephone call.

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