There are a number of fields and professions in which mobile professionals share a pool of mobile devices. For companies with field agents, sales people, and marketing professionals, the need for each user to have a dedicated device may not be the most economical option and a better approach can be to simply configure a number of iPads with similar specs that users or teams can check out when they go on the road.
This shared iPad model can be a way to implement the iPad while reducing overall expense. One challenge, however, is that a business typically needs to provide mobile Internet access for individuals or small teams – something that can be a pricey proposition.
Obviously, one option is to purchase all LTE iPads, which provide mobile employees with a plenty of mobile bandwidth in most major U.S. cities. The problem is that can easily get expensive right from the start since LTE iPad models cost $129 more than their Wi-Fi only siblings and $229 more than Wi-Fi only iPad 2 models.
Another option is to go only with Wi-Fi iPads and expect employees to use public networks. Unfortunately, that raises big concerns about reliability – networks not being available or having very slow/interment connectivity. Clearly, this isn’t a workable solution for most companies or mobile professionals.
Sticking with that philosophy, a company could go with Wi-Fi only devices and provide an Internet connection by using a portable hotspot or even a tethered connection to an employee’s smartphone. This approach may seem like the best option for most businesses.
There is, however, one more option, which is to purchase a mix of LTE iPads and Wi-Fi only models (either the new iPad or the iPad 2). If employees typical work or travel in teams, the personal hotspot feature on one iPad can serve as a connection for one or more Wi-Fi only models. The result is a shared connection on a plan that is more flexible than some of those for dedicated hotspot devices.
This type of system dovetails well with Apple’s free iOS Configurator tool, which allows users to check out any device and receive their personal settings and data, which is then copied back to a management workstation when they check in the device. Whichever iPad is assigned to a use, they have access to the same apps, settings, and data.
This model may not make sense for large organizations, which probably have the budget to go all LTE with their iPad choices. For small businesses or departments with limited budgets, however, this mix and match strategy can be a creative cost-saving solution.