Without a doubt, smartphones and tablets have revolutionised the information technology landscape. These mainly keyboard-less, mobile computing devices have quickly grown into one of the fastest growing technology segments in the world. IT departments and individual business-users alike need to be careful in choosing which apps install, and make sure they’re secure.
An app for that
Modern mobile devices, typically operated by touching the screen rather than using a physical keyboard, have fundamentally changed how users interact with computing devices. The proliferation of smartphones and tablet at every price-point has opened a new world of intuitive, user-friendly and versatile convenience to a growing audience of non-techie consumers. One of the biggest changes wrought by the mobile revolution has been the emergence of “apps.” Apps are software applications specially designed to run on smartphones and tablets. Apple’s now famous line “There’s an app for that” points to the sheer range of options now accessible to users via mobile devices. There are now hundreds of thousands of apps available with thousands more in development, covering everything from lifestyle and shopping to business and social networking. The mobile, instant-on nature of mobile devices means that users can access services far more conveniently than they can use traditional PCs or laptops. Indeed, at the core of the mobile experience is not the device, but the content and services that the device provides access to. For businesses, the ever-increasing range of functions smartphones and tablets can perform provide interesting new opportunities for accessing information, boosting productivity, managing resources and even winding down and destressing.
Choosing the right App
There are a few things that business users should be aware of when it comes to choosing apps:
Choose apps that are as relevant to your context. Look for apps that are specific to (or which can customised to) your particular business, industry and national economy. This may sound obvious, but it is all too easy to purchase an app only to find that the unit of measurement, the VAT rate or the address book system is not compatible with that of your local environment.
Consider the Internet connectivity requirements. Check whether the app needs a broadband Internet to work. Apps which can work “offline” or do not need an Internet connection are more useful to those who cannot afford or do not have easy access to broadband Internet services. Search carefully. There is a growing pool of high quality free business apps which can do the job of some pay-for apps. Some free apps include ads that may not be desirable in an official corporate deployment. By contrast, pay-for apps can translate to hundreds or thousands of dollars if you are deploying apps across a mobile workforce. Where you do have to pay for apps, it may be worth checking whether you can purchase an enterprise license of a certain number of users.
Office productivity apps
There are several good office productivity apps which are compatible with widely popular desktop applications such as Microsoft Office and Open Office. Quickoffice Pro, Open Office, Olive Office and Documents to Go are some of the more popular versions, but generally require users to purchase a license.
Accounting, invoicing and CRM
Most major accounting, invoicing and CRM packages now have an app version that works in conjunction with their server-based or cloud-based software suite. Netsuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce and Sugar CRM all have a mobile app version. Additionally, there are a myriad of smaller bespoke apps.
File storage, management and sharing
A good file storage, management and sharing application is a must-have for serious business users. Services such as “Dropbox” provide basic file storage and sharing capabilities, but for sensitive or confidential information, the use of apps such as “FTP Server” or “FTP on the Go” may provide a more secure option by allowing you to connect to your own corporate servers.
Remote and virtualised desktop apps
There are a number of robust, enterprise grade remote desktop and virtual desktop apps. Teamviewer, GoToMyPC and PocketCloud are widely popular and useful remote desktop applications which can work with existing desktop setups. Similarly, vendors such as Citrix, Wyse and VMWare also provide virtual client apps for access to corporate servers.
Social networking is now as much as part of business as it is of our personal lives. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook are must-have social apps. Yammer is billed as Enterprise Social Networks for collaboration within your business.
Security and tracking
The size and portability of smartphones and tablets make them particularly susceptible to incidental damage, loss and theft. Security apps protects against viruses and hacking as well as provide back-up and device tracking services. Lookout, Norton, ESET, Kaspersky and Avast! are among the moe popular apps. For all these categories, there is tremendous opportunity of local developers to build apps tailored to the local environment. There are legions of independent software developers scattered across the region. Together, they represent the foundation for a potentially significant Caribbean mobile app development industry.
Bevil Wooding is an Internet strategist with the US-based research firm, Packet Clearing House and the chief knowledge officer at Congress WBN, an international non-profit organisation. Follow on Twitter:
@bevilwooding, and Facebook: facebook.com/bevilwooding
Broadband boosts well-being as effectively as robust economy
10 percentage points: A 10 per centage point increase in broadband penetration produces the same lift in a population’s subjective well-being as a 2.89 per cent increase in gross domestic product per capita. In fact, ownership of a range of high-tech devices, including phones, CD players and computers, is associated with significantly higher levels of satisfaction, according to their study of 29 countries, most in Europe. The researchers found no such effect for ownership of TV sets, however.
© 2012 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp.
(Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)