Is VPN The Next Big Thing For Tablets?

Sander Biehn is an account manager with AT&T. You can find more blog content from Sander and other experts on mobility on the AT&T Networking Exchange Blog, where this post originally appeared. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.

using tablet for business
How to get it all done – safely – on your tablet

It is only my second full week of working exclusively on my tablet, and I have been steadily and consistently surprised by what applications have been the greatest assistance to me. One of the biggest surprises has been the VPN client. By using the VPN and the resources attached to it, I have skirted many thorny issues that I experienced working on the tablet. These include printing, Microsoft document retrieval and manipulation, and access to such systems as our CRM platform, which does not have a mobile interface or login routine.

Klaus Brandstaetter blogged recently on about the increasingly important role of the VPN for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) users from the point of view of the IT team. He rightly explains the overwhelming desire not only for employees to access corporate data on a mobile device, but also for that device to be personally owned. Brandstaetter outlines the pitfalls for IT, which include security breaches and the effects of malware on the worker productivity. But many of these threats can be avoided by using VPN. This is Brandstaetter’s main point. While he addresses IT’s concerns, I thought the benefits to the end user were still vague.  I would like to add to his work by outlining the ways in which the VPN can assist a highly mobile end user. After all, for any strategy to work in the world of BYOD, it needs to be beneficial to both IT and the end user.

1. Getting it all done on the tablet

My first week and a half was full of frustration as I tried app after app to bridge the gap around documents. An inherent problem for tablet users is the lack of an easy way to store and manipulate documents. The solution came from a post on our Salesforce Chatter help desk about RDP Remote Desktop Lite. I downloaded it, and could securely see all the files on my laptop and was even able to manipulate, save, and send them. Here is the biggest news: I can send documents to the printer from this app too. The VPN solved more #tabletchallenge problems than any other single application. Who would have dreamed that was possible?

2. The big scare…not so scary

I spent the weekend in Miami at a friend’s wedding. It was extremely handy to have my laptop at the pool Friday night to catch up on the several hours I missed on Friday in transit. Upon arriving home, I couldn’t find my tablet! The normal panic started to subside when I remembered that there really wasn’t anything stored on the device. Unlike a laptop, I wouldn’t lose documents and files (of which there are quite a few) that were stored on the actual device. Luckily it turned out that my son had removed it from my bag and was looking at some of the photos I had taken at Miami beach. The sense of freedom I felt not being dependent on a personal hard drive was amazing. I knew I could access the things I needed from any device that I have VPN access on.

3. The VPN leading the cloud revolution

As witnessed above, we all have some letting go to do with respect to keeping files and work applications with us locally. I think we are still recovering from a time when the network was not always as reliable. With Cellular and WiFi networks at every street corner, we can now relax. Working each day with a mobile device — with no practical way of holding any document files at all — has made my reliance on the cloud complete and non-negotiable. I have to tell you that it is especially comforting, because I am often carrying my tablet outside the office (see the #tabletchallenge FreestyleFriday gallery) and I really don’t need to worry about my device being stolen, broken, or attacked by malware. I am therefore more likely to bring my device along which means I have the ability to be more productive.

Working exclusively on my tablet has really turned my world upside down. By using to the network and the cloud many of my initial problems have been solved. The one thing I am still getting used to is remembering to keep my tablet charged. I was just forced to leave a very comfortable chair to move to another spot closer to an outlet in order to finish typing this blog post!

Keep up to date with my progress under the Twitter handle @sanderbiehn and #tabletchallenge.

In what other ways might VPN help the mobile user? How do you think mobile VPN will affect BYOD adoption in the Enterprise?