Magazine Article | December 20, 2012

Keys To Choosing The Right Tablet For The Job

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Kyp Walls, director of product management, Panasonic,

Choices in tablets are vast — here are some tips for how to pick the right one for your organization.

Not all tablets are created equal. And as many companies deploy tablets across their organizations, they are making big mistakes in taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach. The mainstream popularity of consumer-grade tablet computers like the Apple iPad has led many business leaders to implement the technology in their organizations. Just as they’ve changed consumer computing, tablets have the potential to revolutionize the enterprise, as a tool that enables easy, real-time access to virtually unlimited data nearly anywhere, anytime.

As with any other tool though, it is important to choose the right one for the job. In their rush to deploy this popular new technology, many companies are failing to look at some important factors, such as mobile device management, information security, and functionality. Many companies also are discovering the devices in which they’ve invested aren’t made to hold up to the real-world conditions their employees face.

In April of 2012, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Here Come Tablets, Here Come Problems” that took a look at the mistakes many companies today are making with tablet deployments. In the article, American Airlines CIO Maya Leibman admits the airline quickly discovered that taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach to tablets created challenges for its workers.

Tablets are available from various vendors, and it’s important to do your homework before a full-scale deployment. Here are a few factors to consider:

Where will the tablet be used? What works in the boardroom won’t necessarily work in the field, as The Journal article points out, and it’s important to think about whether the tablet you are choosing will hold up to your workers’ real-world, day-to-day conditions. Popular consumer-grade tablets generally are made for “light use” at home and don’t offer the ruggedness that field use demands. Take a look at what kind of durability testing the device’s manufacturer conducts for drops, and its ingress protection ratings for resistance to dust and water.

How will the tablet be used? In the enterprise, tablets will undoubtedly be used to do more than merely watch videos and play Angry Birds. Before investing in a tablet deployment, verify that the devices will offer the functionality your business demands. If you plan to use your tablet to send and receive large amounts of data, images, or video when off-site, consider a tablet that offers 4G mobile broadband for high-speed connectivity. For outdoor use, a daylight-viewable screen will be important. If the tablet will be used for data entry, look for a device offering a stylus, active digitizer, and signature capture and handwriting recognition functionalities.

How will you manage and secure the device? Consumer tablets are not designed with robust security in mind, and choosing one of these devices for an enterprise deployment can have disastrous consequences. Look for a tablet with security embedded at the hardware level and with features such as hardware and software encryption, enhanced VPN, dual factor authentication, trusted boot and device management — and compliance with FIPS 140-2 for federal government use and HIPAA for healthcare environments. Another concern is mobile device management — how much control IT administrators have over the tablets once they’re in workers’ hands. Solutions on some tablets can allow IT managers to distribute applications in a one-to-many environment and secure devices from unauthorized use and other important tasks.

How much does the tablet cost — in total? One of the most common mistakes organizations make in tablet deployments is going with the lowest sticker price and failing to consider the devices’ total cost of ownership. When factors like repair, support, replacement, and downtime are factored in, any computing device’s true cost will always be much higher than the purchase price. Ensure that the tablet you choose will stand up to the job and be a worthy investment in the long run.

These are just a few key factors — every industry and every organization will have its own individual needs that must be considered for a tablet deployment. But one thing is for sure — “one-size-fits-all” tablets are not likely to meet the demands of your business and the real-world conditions you face.