With the launch of Apple’s New iPad (as the third iteration of the device has been called), tablets are once again hitting the headlines. While Apple is still the undisputed market leader, healthy competition from the likes of Motorola and Samsung has led to the rapid evolution of these devices. With every tablet launch, there is a step change in terms of the functionality and features they offer, ensuring tablets are now truly fit for business.

Tablets find their way into businesses both via the IT department and through employees bringing their own devices into the workplace (a trend dubbed ‘BYOD’ – bring your own device). They are ideal for the workplace. Light-weight, convenient to carry around and feature rich, tablets enable employees to work while on the move, helping them to be more efficient.

Very often we see tablets trickle down from the executive board who love the convenience of board packs on a mobile device, but the real value of tablets comes when businesses apply them at the operational level. The benefits of tablets are numerous, but for these benefits to be fully realised businesses must carefully asses how to integrate tablets into their operations.

Allaying security concerns

Letting staff use their own tablets at work both empowers the employee and reduces capital expenditure for the business. The BYOD approach to tablet integration is therefore highly attractive, but it, and any company owned tablet initiative, should only be undertaken once the full security ramifications are understood and mitigated. We have seen a number of great tablet initiatives get put on hold while a suitable security solution is sought.

If employees have unrestricted permission to use their own devices at work, the IT manager cannot know what devices are connecting to business systems. It is very easy to set up an iPad to access corporate email, but there are some key questions which should first be asked: will the iPad have a suitable password in place, will it only hold approved applications, and how can IT managers enforce security policies on devices they don’t own? Even for company owned tablets, security is still a major concern.

For example, can you prevent a tablet from becoming jail broken and vulnerable to attack by an employee downloaded app? And what happens if the device is lost or stolen, do you have the ability to remotely lock and wipe it? Businesses have a legal obligation to ensure privacy of company data, and with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) now implementing fines for data breaches, the financial risk of non-compliance – in addition to potential reputation damage – could be punishing.

The traditional approach of keeping data safe behind firewalls and using encryption on devices no longer cuts it in a world of pre-dominantly mobile devices, many of which could be owned by employees. Working with a mobile operator can provide businesses with much more effective end-to-end security that combines remote management and policy enforcement for mobile devices (regardless of ownership) with network level control. With this level of security you can release the true power of smart phones and tablets as business tools.

A key enabler for flexible working

There have recently been seismic shifts in the way people expect to work. By relinquishing control over where and when employees can work, businesses are beginning to realise that they can enjoy significant improvements in productivity. The New iPad is an ideal platform for enabling this anytime/anyplace approach to work, as it is built with mobility at its heart.

With flexible working, employees can not only work according to their needs and preferences, they can also help their business to grow cost-effectively. Previously, businesses’ growth had been limited by factors such as the size of their office, the length of their lease and the number of staff they can accommodate at a desk. A move to true mobility, enabled by tablets, can remove many of these obstacles and allows small and large enterprises to freely grow their businesses.

Tablets really do offer an exciting new way of working. They can also increase productivity by allowing employees to work more collaboratively, making them more responsive to clients and colleagues alike. Tablets make effective flexible working possible, and when brought in by employees themselves, can save a business a considerable portion of their IT budgets.

The key to the successful adoption of tablets lies in businesses understanding and planning what the user requirements are from the outset. It is also important to catalogue exactly what devices are being used, and by whom, as well as what future requirements may be. By ensuring the right security measures are in place and by carefully managing the use of tablets on the network, businesses will enjoy all of the benefits offered by tablets without running into security difficulties. We strongly believe that tablets represent the business technology of the future and we look forward to helping our customers migrate to this exciting platform.