We spend a lot of time talking about the cloud, apps and mobile these days. The language is new, but it really represents a return to a mode of technology that enterprise-level organizations have always loved. Tablet adoption is up among enterprise users, especially iPads. And with that adoption rate, laptop use is dropping. Among iPad owners in enterprise, 12 percent report that their tablets have entirely replaced their laptops.
With a tablet and the right suite of apps, an organization can effectively return to the terminal model. Data is saved to the cloud, accessible both from employees’ tablets and any other computer they might use. There are a lot that tablets (and terminals) aren’t capable of, but for the data-entry and communications that make up a large portion of what an employee might do during the course of the day, they are sufficient.
The Benefits of a Terminal-Based World
For enterprise-level organizations, handing out tablets to employees, rather than laptops, has some serious benefits.
Organizations have more control over their data. Not only does having all data stored remotely in a system that the organization controls limit the potential for theft of that data, it also means that managers can keep a closer eye on how employees are using company resources.
It’s easier to safeguard a server or a mainframe from the sorts of accidents that happen to the hardware that employees use everyday. If someone destroys a tablet, very little data will actually be lost.
Costs can be better controlled when you can configure software once and then allow a variety of hardware to access it. The costs of tablets are continuing to drop and many app builders have focused on creating versions of their products that an organization can set up on its own servers with minimal customization.
Many large companies never entirely got away from the terminal model because of these benefits: having most employees work on workstations that could be networked together to simplify sharing files and other resources is necessary when you’re talking about larger teams. Having more then ten people email around copies of a file just doesn’t work. Even those sections of an organization that embraced laptops (such as sales) still expect their hardware to connect to the network.
The Tablet’s Advantage Over the Terminal
With the ‘always on’ nature of business today, a tablet does have advantages over a traditional terminal beyond what you might expect from the advancing march of technology. While many tablet users rely on WiFi, the ability to connect through mobile networks means that even when an employee isn’t in the office, she may be sitting in on a meeting, editing a memo or otherwise taking part in the daily activities of the company.
Having immediate access to organizational documents, project management tools and the like is crucial if you’re going to deal with a team that is not constantly in the office. Even for teams that are not distributed all over the world, it’s becoming the norm for team members to choose to work outside of the office on a regular basis.
Tablets do need the right tools in order to come into their own as enterprise tools. What works for an individual or a handful of people may not work for a company with thousands of employees who need to interact. The crucial differences come down to how data is handled. Data must be secure. A number of cloud-based products also offer on-premise solutions that allow an organization to control its own data more diligently.
There are some jobs that a tablet cannot currently do and may not be able to handle in the near future. Running the software necessary to design a building falls into that category. But there are entire departments at most enterprise-level organizations that could be moved over to tablets tomorrow. Human resources professionals, for instance, can fulfill most of their responsibilities on an iPad, especially if they can plug in a keyboard for particularly lengthy bouts of typing. The tools necessary for enterprise adoption of tablets are already here, offering big organizations better options for controlling their data and easier options for working with distributed work forces.