It’s undeniable that the iPad is transforming the way companies do business, now more than ever with the evolution of the iPad 2. Many businesses are now choosing to invest in the iPad as the mobile technology of choice, making it easier to deliver presentations, collaborate with colleagues remotely and access important business information wherever they are.

However, whilst popular with end users, the tablets are often not incorporated within the IT management policy, with many companies not yet proactively planning for associated IT support and continuity issues. In this guide I suggest 5 key considerations every business should take into account when providing tablets for their workforce; including security, insurance/continuity and connectivity.

  1.  Managing a suite of iPads

From the outset be clear with all users as to what the usage policy is and set strict guidelines. Provide employees with an initial induction and training session covering benefits of the technology, expectations of usage for business and pleasure, set up, security and insurance.

The good news for business users it that the iPad operating system supports Mobile Device Management, which is essential for managing a suite of iPads and gives IT departments the ability to securely enrol devices in an enterprise environment, wirelessly configure and update settings, monitor compliance with corporate policies, and even remotely wipe or lock managed devices.

The management of iPads takes place via a connection to a Mobile Device Management Server (there are several enterprise solution server providers) and allows functions to be undertaken without any interaction with or disruption to the user.

For more information Apple has published a guide to illustrate the capabilities of Mobile Device Management, and covers in detail the four categories of deployment: Enrol, Configure, Query, and Manage.

  1.  Security

The first step to securing your mobile device or table is to add a 4 digit security code to your device, lock your screen whenever you’re not using it or step away and change passwords regularly. Where possible make sure that passwords are strong using punctuation, capitalisation and numeric characters.

Businesses using a mobile device for the storing and viewing of email, documents and contact details should consider the security risks on par with a laptop or PC. As such, the security precautions that are now second nature when on a computer in the office should be applied when opening email messages, SMS attachments or clicking links from a Smartphone or tablet. Further safety measures that need taking into account are avoiding untrustworthy WiFi networks and encrypting documents and sensitive information that sits on the device.

The corporate security policy should be updated to provide employees with strict guidelines to follow including, what data needs to sit on the device, the level of encryption that needs to be used for what type of data and how long it stays active. Review the policy regularly and respond to evolving threats.

  1.  Insurance/continuity

One of the biggest benefits of mobile devices is that they are lightweight enough to be taken out of the office; whether it’s commuting or travelling to client meetings, this very advantage provides a challenge when it comes to insurance and recovery of data if lost or stolen.

With prices of an iPad ranging from around £400 up to over £600, make sure you have adequate insurance in place to keep your workforce equipped and working should any devices get lost, damaged or stolen. There are now insurance provides that specialise in insurance for high-tech equipment, with some just focusing on Apple products. With that in mind, dedicate some time to identifying the right cover for your business and consider; the amount of items that need insuring, their usage and any restrictions concerning accidental damage, loss or geographic restraints.

If an iPad is unusable, lost or stolen make sure you have set up the necessary security precautions (see point 2) and ensure data is regularly synchronised to the network. In addition make sure that passwords for email and other applications can be changed remotely.

  1.  Connectivity

When procuring iPads for your workforce bear in mind that they have limited storage capacity which is not expandable. Therefore, you will need to encourage the adoption of cloud technologies amongst your staff to maximise efficiency saving applications such a Virtual or Hosted Desktop service that can run a Windows desktop environment via your iPad.

If you expect to be spending a lot of time in the cloud then the issue of connectivity becomes paramount. Relying solely on a Wi-Fi connection will mean that you can’t count on always being connected to the cloud. One option to resolve this problem is to use 3G connectivity accessed over WiFi using a MiFi dongle.

  1.  Getting the most from iPads 

You’ve provided your workforce with an iPad and if they’re tech-savvy they will most likely be able to get to grips with using it for Email, Microsoft Office and online browsing. But in today’s environment that’s not enough of a return on your investment; the iPad can be just as productive as a laptop or PC, with a host of applications that aid productivity it’s just a case of education.

For added productivity and workability consider the below business applications:

  • iWork
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • Keynote
  • Dropbox
  • TweetDeck for iPad
  • Desktop Connect
  • WebEx for iPad
  • Dictionary & Thesaurus

In summary, the iPad is a technology that has the potential to be a great business tool. With lots of choice of efficiency-driving applications, it is one device which could be used for the majority of business uses. Take the time to set in place clear user guidelines, an insurance policy, a security framework and it could just be the best investment your business ever made.