Features: December 7th, 2012

Barriers in using technology are steadily coming down. The use of mobile devices has brought access to services when away from the desk. Alan Laing explains how iPads are now used to make communication more efficient and productive.

iPads are rapidly becoming more than just a personal device as they increasingly invade the enterprise space and provide the flexibility and mobility that allow employees to perform their job functions faster and easier. This is especially true in an environment which is spread across several buildings and campuses, such as a college or university.

In spring of 2012, the University of East Anglia, a top-ranked university in Norwich, U.K., purchased a number of iPads for members of some of its senior management teams, in an effort to provide a more efficient workflow and significantly reduce the amount of paper generated by department meetings and other communications. Given the university’s reputation for research into the environment, decision makers at the institution tend to look very positively on anything they can do to be more environmentally conscious.

Accessing the institution’s files

The iPads help to improve staff response time to queries. In the past, if someone was asked a question that required finding a reference document and they were not near a desktop or laptop, they would have to respond later. The iPads expedite the process because the answer can be provided straight away, allowing for better collaboration and remote productivity.

But while iPads make remote email access and other browser-based tools easy enough, employees also need to be able to access files safely and securely without the use of on-device storage options.

The university’s existing secure file service did not support file access via mobile devices so the IT department needed to find a solution that would do so and work within the existing infrastructure. The idea was not to replace the entire service but to use an application to accommodate desktop and mobile devices.

As an ad hoc measure, some employees had relied on consumer solutions such as File Browser, Dropbox, Good Reader and iCloud. Some of them even relied on emailing documents to themselves. But none of these solutions provided the required enterprise level of security. The IT department was charged with finding a solution that would allow employees to securely access files on the institution’s server from their iPads, while retaining the control to perform actions such as remote wipe if the device was lost.

Is there an app for that?

After spending some time looking for the best solution, the IT department selected the industry’s first and only Mobile File Management (MFM) software in the market for enterprise mobile users, mobilEcho. The software was quick to install and met the file accessing requirements of the university. Essentially, the software was able to provide iPad users with secure and managed access to files and content on the university’s servers, just as they would from a laptop to desktop.

The solution also provided the IT department with the ability to implement the security and management capabilities required by the university.

An enterprise solution for a consumer device

There is a big difference between using devices such as tablets and smartphones as consumer gadgets and deploying them as business tools. While it is possible to find a desired app for a user in the consumer environment, this is certainly not the case for the enterprise market. Luckily, solutions such as MFM can deliver the convenience, mobility and resource-saving benefits of the iPad while maintaining the security required for a dynamic enterprise environment.

Today, over 500 iPads are being used by senior staff at the University of East Anglia. The implementation has resulted in a significant reduction in the use of paper, easy and managed access to the institution’s files anytime, anywhere on the university’s grounds and more importantly, increased staff productivity through remote connectivity.

Alan Laing is vp at EMEA, Acronis.