Three Things to Consider Before Deploying Tablets in Your SMB

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The Role of Tablets in the Enterprise

Tablets may one day soon take their place alongside PCs and smartphones as standard-issue IT equipment.

I've recently blogged about the new iPad and wrote about its impact on your SMB . Though I've concluded that the improvements in the new iPad are not relevant for most businesses, I did highlight how Apple's decision to offer the 16GB version of the iPad 2 at a reduced price actually served as an inducement for the commercial deployment of the iPad.


In the past, I've highlighted various business uses for an Apple iPad here and here. Given the need to make judicious use of limited funds, however, small and mid-sized businesses may want to look through the below checklist before heading out en masse to purchased tablets.


Consider use cases


It would be an utter waste of funds to purchase a tablet for company deployment without first compiling a realistic list of use cases. This is especially important due to the natural appeal of getting an iPad, necessitating the turning of a critical eye towards realistic uses versus imagined or hoped-for improvements to workflows. Moreover, it is also well known that the iPad excels at single tasks and fares rather poorly when users are forced to repeatedly switch between apps. As such, apps that encapsulate an SMB's needs in its entirety are preferred; companies may want to start off by compiling a list of such applications and evaluating their suitability.


Factor mobile data into the equation


Aside from deployment scenarios limited to office or fixed locations, businesses would do well to factor mobile data costs into the equation. For SMBs that are already subsidizing mobile bills for their employees, this may prove to be negligible. For others, this could cost tens of dollars per device, which can mount up quickly if deployed to hundreds of staffers. And given the trend of mobile providers pulling unlimited data plans, it is beholden upon businesses to clearly communicate if they will be held responsible for excessive usage resulting in exorbitant mobile data bills.


Complementary or replacement


Finally, one question that SMBs must ask themselves would be whether the new tablet will complement existing PC workstations or replace them. Though the post-PC term is a popular term being juggled around a lot lately, the truth is that many types of work are still best done on a full-fledged laptop or desktop computer.


And as I outlined in "Do Notebooks Matter in the Age of Tablets & Smartphones?" which was published on our sister website SmallBusinessComputing, the much larger display, ease of switching between multiple applications and abundance of peripherals remain the reasons for using a PC. So while a tablet can replace a PC in certain circumstances, SMBs should take care to not automatically assume that a tablet is adequate to replace a proper desktop.