Android at Work: The Essential Guide for Business Users

The Android tablet is rapidly becoming a popular personal computing device. How well does it stand up for business use?
Written by Scott Raymond, Inactive on

The Android operating system has been growing into a popular tablet platform. It hasn't hit the sales numbers that Apple's iPad has reached yet, but the momentum is building rapidly. Devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Motorola Xoom have enjoyed a measure of success, and future tablet devices from other manufacturers are soon to follow.

Previously, I wrote an article on sysadmins using an Android device in place of a laptop for technical work. This time I would like to explore the workplace side of things, and see how Android can benefit the average office worker.

Also Read: The Android Sysadmin: Remote Administration in the Smartphone Age

The Android platform is well-suited to the workplace. Google has added a considerable amount of capability for Android, such as remote device administration, integration with Google Apps for Business, and Google Voice.

Out of the box, Android can sync with Google Apps, as well as Microsoft Exchange. Google has also added encryption to the Honeycomb operating system, allowing users to protect all of the data on their devices. If you use Chrome as your browser, you can sync your bookmarks to the Honeycomb browser. You can do the same if you use Firefox as your main browser and have Firefox for Android installed on your tablet.

That's all well and good, but what else can Android do? Lots of devices can do email and browse the web, but we all know that the workplace requires more than just those capabilities. In order to replace a laptop in the office, the Android tablet needs to be up to the task.

One of the main business decisions for laptops is the ability to access your documents and data on the road. Android tablets can handle that, too. If you're one of the many users of Dropbox, then their Android application would certainly fit the bill.

Note-taking in meetings is often necessary. Instead of loudly clicking away at your laptop keyboard, you could take notes more quietly using the on-screen display of your tablet. And while there are certainly plenty of notepad applications available, you might find Evernote for Android to be a more comprehensive tool when simple note-taking doesn't meet your needs.

Sure, you can access Google Apps through the browser. But what about having documents and spreadsheets stored on the tablet? DataViz Documents To Go is considered to be one of the leaders in working with your documents, spreadsheets and slide presentations on mobile platforms. It works with Google Docs as well.

There's also Quickoffice Pro which offers similar features and goes one step further; in addition to Google Apps integration, it also has the ability to access cloud services like Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, and MobileMe.

Collaboration applications haven't been left out. Cisco's Webex has an Android client available; and while GotoMeeting isn't on the Android platform yet, Fuze Meeting is available. And of course, Skype for Android is there for free internet calling.

Sometimes you need to access your home or work computer while on the road, or even when you just can't leave the conference room. For situations like these, remote access applications like LogMeIn Ignition and Wyse PocketCloud provide remote desktop control and access to data.

If you do any traveling for work, there are apps to help you make the trip easier. The popular web service TripIt has a great app for accessing the service. If you're in an unfamiliar city, Cab4me can help you find a local taxi service to get around. As for tracking expenses, one of the best rated apps in the Android Market is Expensify which lets you take photos of your receipts and store them with the app.

Finally, no business software selection would be complete without a security application. I personally use Lookout on my Android phone and tablet. It can lock down your device if it goes missing, backup your data, locate a missing device, and remotely manage it. One neat feature I really like about it is that it scans any new application that you install. If some rogue developer slips some spyware into the Android Market, this can ferret it out and prevent it from accessing your data if you mistakenly install it.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that enjoys owning and using a tablet that the future of the workplace is moving in the direction of more portable devices like tablets. With some exceptions like typing long documents, using a tablet can often be easier than using a desktop or laptop system. Even that can be circumvented with the use of a wireless keyboard paired with a tablet.

Tablets are becoming more popular, more powerful, and more capable of handling our day to day work tasks. It only makes sense that a cheaper, easier to use device would one day supplant the larger and more power hungry computing devices. Time will tell.

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