Last month we met with 10 CEOs at a Vistage meeting to discuss how they using iPads in their business. A key problem they all agreed on was accessing their corporate file servers from the iPad, so they can browse and update files.
Businesses using Cisco found that AnyConnect is a pretty good solution. You can connect to your corporate network and browse documents and files. The general impression was that this was good, but the user experience could be more slick.
We discussed DropBox and Box.net as access-anywhere corporate file networks. Cloud providers can allow businesses to store documents without the need for on-site servers and firewalls. They can be secure, easy to install and relatively cheap. The problem with these cloud solutions is that businesses need to move their data into the cloud, which they may not be ready to do.
The cloud is great, but not if you’ve invested heavily in on-site servers, firewalls and software.
The demand for enterprise mobile file access is increasing, and we’re seeing a growth in solutions in this area. One promising solution is File Spirit, a US startup. They acknowledge that not everyone is in the cloud. So they let you use your file servers and expose your own file servers, and have a clever service to allow iPad users to access files on the move. Neat stuff.
We think that solutions such as this are pretty optimal, and will certainly help with sales enablement and field enablement. We’re trialing this service for use with our own solutions.
Once you’ve got access to your files, you want to view and possibly edit them. This is also a problem that we discussed.
The CEOs expressed some frustration about not having an easy way to edit and view Microsoft Office files on their iPads. There are good tools out there, as this article explains, but many aren’t aware of these options.
As a stop gap, they are using PDF readers like Good Reader. They can save Office documents as PDFs, and load them on to the iPad. They, they can use software like Good Reader to review and annotate documents. This works very well.
Microsoft knows people want to access Office files from the iPad, so they’re working hard on a solution. We’ve heard that Microsoft is going to release Office for iPad in February 2013. Article - Office for iPad and Android in February 2013?
Many CEOs we spoke to at the Vistage were interested in using iPad to improve business processes. However, most were only using it for personal business productivity at this point, and were waiting to invest in rolling iPads out across their organisations.
The areas discussed were:
Clearly, having good access to the corporate file system from the iPad could help in either of these area. However, we felt it was not essential, as cloud services can help with document sharing for subgroups such as sales reps and engineers.