Now that you have badgered your boss into letting you expense an iPad for “work purposes” and you are ready to get productive, I have one thing to ask of you:
PLEASE, for the sake of IT guys, mail servers and the measly 32GB of storage on your iPad, DON’T email documents to yourself.
Emailing a document to yourself so you can get it on your tablet is like washing the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. (Well, it's almost like that).
So here are four good ways to access your documents on your shiny-new productivity machine:
1. Personal cloud file systems: Keep In sync
The key feature here is keeping your files in sync between your many devices, and two of the most popular ones are DropBox and iCloud.
DropBox is easy to use, installs on all your devices and allows you to keep files synced and available no matter where you are, or what device you are using. And because DropBox is integrated with many other apps, you can often access your docs without even having to open the DropBox app.
iCloud is more iOS- and Mac-specific today, but works in the background for Apple iWork in a very seamless way.
2. Personal cloud backup services: Find that file
Cloud backup services - like SpiderOak (my personal choice) and Mozy, and many others - are similar to cloud file systems, but they have a different purpose. SpiderOak and Mozy are built to back-up your entire computer, but each have mobile apps that allow you to access your cloud back-ups and find files.
While some have syncing features, this is more about being able to “find that file” when you most need it (and when you have an internet connection), not syncing everything down to your tablet. I use both DropBox and SpiderOak - one for syncing, the other for just accessing all of my files.
3. Company document management & collaboration
The company I work for, Alfresco, is a document management and collaboration platform. Documentum, OpenText, Filenet, Microsoft Sharepoint, etc. are some of the others. While I use DropBox to sync my machines, I use Alfresco’s mobile app to find, download and upload company documents or documents that I want to share with co-workers.
Nothing makes my iPad come alive as a business tool like having a live connection with our corporate repository of documents. Access the latest sales presentation, spreadsheet or video right on your tablet, without having to download it on your PC and throw it in DropBox. Again, I use Alfresco in conjunction with both DropBox & SpiderOak, which gives me all the access I need to both personal and corporate content.
4. Open standards: Serendipity at work
When Apple first released iWork for the iPad, they did a very smart thing: they supported the WebDAV standard for being able to access files over the Internet. Basically, if you have a WebDAV server (or a document management platform, like Alfresco, that supports WebDAV out of the box), then Apple allowed you to access your documents just by putting in your WebDAV URL and credentials.
Other apps, like GoodReader and PDFExpert also support WebDAV, and some allow you to sync WebDAV folders right onto your iPad. The cool thing about app vendors supporting WebDAV (or CMIS, another content standard) is that new apps can be automatically integrated with your personal or corporate content, and you can be productive right away.
There are even more ways, such as remote desktop emulation apps, to access your files - but whatever you do, please, please, please don’t wash your dishes before you email them to yourself.
(Todd Barr will be speaking at the first TabTimes Tablet Strategy conference in New York April 27, where issues related to tablet deployment, security and BYOD will be discussed).