A year ago I was working on a pretty large project with a buddy. We were hundreds of miles apart, but since we both had iPads, we figured, hey, no problem — collaboration will be easy.
But it wasn’t. Despite the wealth of iPad apps, none of them were quite the collaboration tool we wanted; too expensive, or lacking a particular feature, or not easy enough to use. I wish Moxtra had been around a year ago.
One of the first secure business solutions for the iPhone and iPad was Good for Enterprise, a secure collaboration tool that allows companies to separate business email, calendar, and contact systems from Apple’s standard Mail, Calendar, and Contacts apps. Going beyond simply separating work accounts and data from a user’s personal accounts, Good’s alternatives securely encrypt all data and must be unlocked using credentials other than the passcode used to unlock an iOS device.
Good released a significant update to Good for Enterprise this week, one that makes the solution more streamlined, user-friendly, and offers powerful new features – some of which are worth considering for their business functionality as well as their innate security.
Colligo Networks today announced a major revision of its award-winning line of iOS SharePoint clients. SharePoint has become an indispensible tool for many businesses. Having access to SharePoint resources on the iPad has become equally crucial to many mobile professionals.
Colligo Briefcase is designed to provide secure access to SharePoint sites, documents, and resources. The apps in the Colligo Briefcase lineup include core features like the ability capture, view, edit, and share files and list items. They also provide a range of ways to view SharePoint content, support for editing content in other iOS apps, and the ability to print to AirPrint-enabled printers.
Increased productivity is one of the most common rallying cries when people, myself included, talk about the consumerization trend in business technology and the related growth of personally owned mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad in the workplace. Increased productivity and the comfort of choosing and using the best apps or devices for the job is one big advantage that these trends have to offer, but it isn’t the only one.
The ability to collaborate is being unleashed by these trends in businesses around the world. That, perhaps, points a finger to why the iPad, cloud services like Box and Dropbox, and social networks have gained so much popularity in so many offices. They allow people to interact and collaborate in ways that traditional business collaboration tools do not.
Apple’s 2007 launch of Leopard Server was the beginning of a new business strategy for the company. Leopard Server included a number of new features – shared calendaring with iCal Server, Apple’s wiki-based collaborative tools, and streamlined Podcast creation and hosting through Podcast Producer were some of the highlights. The biggest new feature, however, was the introduction of a simplified setup assistant and Server Preferences – a utility designed to look and feel similar to System Preferences that enabled easy management of key server features for smaller organizations with limited technical knowledge or resources.
Fast forward nearly five years to today and you can see the focus that Apple introduced in Leopard Server has become the core of Mountain Lion Server. You can also see that many features that used to be OS X Server staples are gone (or at least are being handed their hats and coats). What remains is a very inexpensive but still relatively powerful server OS with a focus on easy setup and management as well as collaboration.
CloudOn is one of the more interesting options for working with Office documents on the iPad. The company offers a cloud-based version of the core Microsoft Office apps plus Adobe Reader. Unlike a virtual desktop solution, CloudOn provides just the applications and not a full Windows desktop. When it comes to creating and editing documents, CloudOn’s app relies on popular cloud storage options: Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive.
As a startup, CloudOn has seen strong growth since it launched its service earlier this year. The company announced a new round of funding this week ($16 million) and used the opportunity to tease users with details of its upcoming plans, most notably support for group editing and collaboration as well as expansion beyond the iPad and Android tablets.
One way to look at the consumerization of IT is as a democratization of workplace technology decisions. Executives and employees alike have become much more sophisticated users of technology. Through iPhones and iPads, they see how well-designed devices, platforms, and apps can create enjoyable and, more importantly, productive user experiences. As a result, they don’t tolerate clunky business systems and slow IT responses as much as they did a few years ago.
Many executives and pundits believe this has already changed the balance of power between the CIO/IT management and the CFO and other executives. A recent Gartner survey found that overall, CFOs are leading IT decision-making more than they were just two years ago. One could even argue that in addition to disrupting industries like music and mobile technology, Apple is subtly disrupting IT and business itself (with some help from other tech and business innovators).
There are plenty of iOS apps that deliver the core functions of Microsoft Office – Apple’s iWork, Quickoffice, Documents 2 Go, and Office2 being the most common selections. There are, however, gaps in what all these products deliver.
From a business and collaboration standpoint, the biggest missing features are integration with Microsoft’s Track Changes feature and the ability to access Sharepoint. While there hasn’t been any progress on the Track Changes front (OnLive Desktop and CloudOn are still the only real options), there are options for Sharepoint – the most recent being harmon.ie Mobile.
Almost every cloud storage service on the Internet operates using a freemium model. Anyone who signs up gets a certain amount of storage for free. When someone uses up all their free storage, they can add more for a fee. Cloud providers usually layer on a few extra features for paid customers like the ability to stream audio files or the ability to restore deleted files or older versions of documents. Just like most companies now, they to outsource the support process making it easy for clients to resolve issues easily. Netzen is a company that provides IT support to businesses in the UK, consider checking them out if you need help with your IT.
With so many free options, however, it can be tempting to use multiple services simultaneously. Add files to a free Dropbox account up till the free 2GB, then create an account with Box for the next 5GB (Box’s free limit), then create a SugarSync account and on and on.
This approach, known as cloud squatting, effectively nets users unlimited free storage so long as they’re willing to play an ongoing game of musical chairs with their data. iOS and other mobile apps that can access and edit files across different services make it surprisingly easy for users to become cloud squatters – and it’s surprisingly difficult for a business or IT department to prevent or deal with cloud squatting employees.
Quickoffice announced its new cloud service known as Connect at the end of last month. The service is designed to sync Microsoft Office documents between your iOS devices, Android devices, Macs, and PCs. It’s an extension to the Quickoffice apps for iOS and other mobile platforms that offer the ability to create, edit, and view Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files on the go.
Connect by Quickoffice is now available from the App Store and it’s a very slick app and a great addition for any iOS user or mobile professional.