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Navigating the Cloud: Selecting the Right Mobile Device for your Business Needs

Written by  Harrall Griffin III

Today’s building service contractors are utilizing technology to leverage client relationships more frequently than ever before. For example, it’s not uncommon for a client to call and say, “The cleaning crew forgot to clean a restroom, hallway, or office.” This forces you to scramble to find out the essential bits of information related to the problem. When this happens, you start asking yourself questions, such as “What type of tissue dispensers do they have?” or “Did the crew overlook an area that had run out of some particular supplies, or did they simply forget to restock?” In these situations, nothing matters except getting the client’s needs met in a timely manner. If you’re not in your office when you get such a call, you don’t have access to many of your normal resources, so the first question is, how do you access the information you need to handle this issue?

In the Cloud

If you’re using the latest technology, the answer is simple: The information you need can be found in the “cloud.” The cloud provides an interactive online database that you can access via a mobile device like a smart phone, laptop, or tablet. This technology allows you to immediately gather the information you need to solve the problem before you forget any of the details. Using a cloud-based customer service management program and your mobile device, you can make a note listing the details of the client’s problem, notify appropriate team members, schedule a follow-up inspection and client walkthrough, as well as notify the client the issue is being handled—all while out in the field.

These cloud-based programs show the types of supplies a facility uses, the employees available to deliver products needed, and when the next employee is scheduled onsite, so you can make informed decisions and take appropriate measures to ensure the issue doesn’t occur again. Using a Tablet PC, you are able to run regular Windows desktop applications, such as Word and Excel to input and access your data 24/7. The tablet PC era is just beginning. There are many different tablets to choose from today, ranging from the iPad to the Droid, but these two are very limited in what they can run and do. I’m not saying these aren’t great devices, but you should look at your individual business needs to determine What, Where, and How you’re going to use it before implementing a new strategy.

The “What” refers to the types of things you want to use the device for, so you’re ultimately able to run your business while away from the office. The “Where” refers to the places that you want to use the device, such as a client’s facility, on the road, or at the office. The “How” refers to the ways in which you want to be able to access your data. With these factors in mind, let’s take a look at the different devices and see which one(s) best fit your business needs.

Smart phones allow you to run applications programmed specifically for that device or to access websites that store your information. However, they do not offer the ability to run traditional desktop software products due to the screen resolution size, memory, and method of input. From a business perspective, these devices are great for performing inspections, typing in relatively short amounts of data, checking email, taking pictures, and making phone calls.

Tablets offer a lot of the same features as smart phones, but in most cases, you lose the ability to talk on the phone unless you are using Skype or another application to communicate by voice. However, tablets do have one additional feature most Smart Phones don’t offer: a larger screen. Having the larger screen size adds another dimension in usability and comfort to the end-user, making the experience both easier and richer. Allowing the user to look over documents more clearly (actual size vs. scaled image) and giving them the ability to use familiar applications, such as Microsoft Word or Excel can enhance productivity.

Tablet PCs put the user in the driver’s seat and greatly increases the amount of tasks a user can perform. Some feature built-in wireless service, so you can have access to information in the cloud anytime, anywhere. Other than deciding on whether you want wireless access, the most important thing to look for on tablet PCs are their Operating System. Windows Tablet PCs come in two basic flavors: Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 Professional. Windows 8 RT makes the tablet work like the iPad or Droid and offers the ability to run apps written for that specific device and MS Office. Tablet PCs let you run programs like QuickBooks and others that are focused on time keeping, customer relationships, and more. These devices are workhorses that allow you the power of a laptop without all of the weight and size. Some even have keyboards that connect directly to the base of the tablet and a glide pad that functions as a mouse.

Harrall Griffin III is the Director of IT and Development for ExpressTime Solutions. Mr. Griffin has been working in the business services industry for more than 10 years, helping develop innovative solutions for this marketplace. For more information, visit www.expresstimesolutions.net.

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