What's Your Mobile Computing Strategy? From smartphones to laptops, weigh all your options when deciding how to take your business on the road.

By Ramon Ray

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the past few months, Apple's iPhone has taken all the media attention for being the hottest gadget on the market. Of course the BlackBerry Storm's launch has peaked the interest of many, especially existing BlackBerry customers.

What we're seeing is the continued evolution of mobile technology. It's moving from being a pure phone platform to powerful, pocket-sized devices to replace computers and, in some ways, serve as the centerpiece of personal and business entertainment, communication, and productivity.

As your business grows and you consider plans for the coming months, you must develop a solid mobile strategy. Sitting passively on the sidelines and buying mobile technology in an ad hoc fashion is not a good idea. Ad hoc mobility is not uncommon for smaller businesses, but it should be avoided.

To steer clear of an ad hoc mobile strategy, consider some guidelines.
What are your needs now and in the future?

Right now you might be a small, five-person jewelry store. Maybe your future growth plans include hiring a sales team to visit the homes of high-net-worth clients. While having a smartphone for each salesperson is a good idea, your clients, especially older ones, might want to see their purchases on a larger screen. A notebook computer might be the best option. You might even want to consider a notebook with a rotating screen that can serve as a tablet.

If you're just using a cell phone to make a few phone calls, security isn't much of an issue. But if you're using your mobile technology to transmit data, you need to ensure data transmission and remote access to your office network are secure. The data you send are sent over the air for anyone with the right tools to pick up. Ensure your data are properly encrypted so hackers can't read it.

Weight is an important factor to consider when deciding what type of hardware you'll use. If your staff needs to be highly mobile, they'll want the minimal weight of a smartphone. But if they need more than simple access to e-mail and a few client contacts, they might want the convenience of a notebook computer.

By default, all of your mobile devices will enable you to have access to e-mail, contacts and your schedule. But when you need access to inventory, sales or other data in real time, considering how to get this information is important. Access to the information via a web browser is one option, while access to the data via an application installed on your smartphone or notebook computer is another. Consider which method works best for your company in consultation with your technical staff. Access via a web browser is probably be simplest solution, as there is no software to install on your smartphone or notebook.

Operating system
Apple's iPhone is clearly more than just a toy for consumers; it's a tool used by many business professionals. Google's Android phone, BlackBerry, Palm Treo and other devices all use different operating systems. Determining which one is best for your business should not be taken lightly. The operating system your smartphone uses will determine what kinds of applications you can use.

Wavy Line

Ramon Ray is editor of SmallBizTechnology.com and author of Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses.

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