The days of a 9 to 5 desk job are a distant memory for many of us. Now we’re expected to get the job done whenever and wherever required, which can often mean working on the road.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of gadgets to assist those of us who don’t clock off when we leave the office.
There are plenty of contenders when it comes to the title of “ultimate tech travel companion”.
In one corner, you’ve got tiny low-powered netbooks; in the other corner, slender but powerful ultrabooks, which are more expensive but don’t demand sacrifices in terms of grunt.
In between you’ll find a range of notebooks to cater to all tastes and budgets, including Apple’s gorgeous MacBook Airs if you’re that way inclined. But as Steve Jobs said, we’re living in the post-PC era.
It’s worth asking whether a smartphone or tablet can meet your needs while you’re on the road.
In theory, a tablet should make the perfect travel companion for work and play – thin, light, powerful, a long battery life and extremely versatile. But don’t put your money down until you’ve thought long and hard about whether a tablet operating system such as Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android can meet all your needs.
Are you reliant on a full desktop browser, or a particular plugin, to access specific websites? Are you reliant on specialist desktop software to access key services or data? There might be mobile-friendly alternatives, but do they meet your needs?
You’ll want to do your research and undertake a trial phase before taking the plunge with a tablet. It won’t be much of a productivity tool if you spend most of your time fighting with it.
This isn’t to say that tablets are useless for work, just that they’re not always the best tool for the job. Don’t get caught up in iPad fever until you’ve considered your options, as there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to mobility.
Also consider whether consumer-focused mobile devices are rugged enough to meet your needs, especially if you’ll be rolling out a fleet of them.
Be prepared to experiment with different devices, software and services until you find what works best for your business. You might find that the addition of a wireless Bluetooth keyboard to your tablet makes life much easier (although it’s one more thing to carry).
You’ll find plenty of tablet cases with built-in keyboards. Meanwhile there are “hybrid” Android and Windows devices with keyboards which detach or fold out of the way when not needed. Windows 8 brings with it a flexible new range of notebook and Surface tablet computers designed for people on the go.
If a tablet meets most of your needs, investigate whether remote access tools from the likes of LogMeIn or GoToMyPC could let you control the computer on your desk from afar on those occasions when only a desktop operating system will do.
Alternatively, you might find that your mobility push is the perfect opportunity to re-examine your business systems and explore device-agnostic solutions. It might be time to expose in-house services to the web, give them a mobile-friendly makeover or even outsource them to the cloud and enjoy a wealth of benefits beyond remote access.
The quest for mobility doesn’t just offer the chance to play with shiny gadgets. It actually presents the opportunity to rethink how your business operates. So take your time and do it right.
David Hancock is the founder and managing director of national on-site computer repair and support company, Geeks2U. Founded in 2005 and with a team now over 300 strong, Geeks2U is one of the biggest Australian businesses of its kind.