A growing number of companies are boosting employee productivity into the stratosphere by tapping into mobility, software-as-a-service and cloud computing. But there are a number of important points they'll have to consider in order to get the most out of their investment in next generation computing architecture.
So says Jack Gold, president and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, who offered of glimpse of where things are headed in the mobile enterprise during a session at COMDEXvirtual, the online conference hosted by CRN parent company Everything Channel. The show takes place November 16 - 17, and sessions are available on-demand until May 17, 2011.
Long gone are the days when e-mail was the primary application for mobile workers. Now they're using apps like CRM, ERP, order entry and inventory tracking.
But along with the proliferation of mobile apps comes tough decisions, Gold said. "Companies are going to need to make a choice on how to optimally deploy those mobile apps. Will they be behind a firewall, as with a typical client/server, or will they reside in the cloud?" he said.
Companies also need to figure out whether it makes more sense financially to extend their existing business apps to the mobile setting or to develop new apps specifically sculpted to the needs of their mobile workforce, according to Gold. "The bottom line is that enterprises are moving to the mobile cloud, and they're moving that way fairly rapidly," he said.
When it comes to choosing mobile devices, companies must decide whether a thin-client or thick-client approach best fits their needs. This is a business decision as well as a technical one, and picking the right path can mean the difference between saving money from mobile efficiencies or merely breaking even due to unforeseen costs, Gold said.
Thin clients offer advantages in security, management, ease of deployment and support, and they can also be managed from the cloud and are easier to support from an IT perspective. On the other hand, thick clients offer more flexibility, richness of apps, local data storage and expandability, Gold said in the presentation.
Management and support are also issues that need to be taken into account. Remote device management is at the top of list of requirements for companies, and thick clients can be managed from a corporate IT environment, although support is more difficult because it's harder for help desk to figure out and troubleshoot, Gold said.
NEXT: Where Thick Clients Make Sense
One problem with cloud apps is that they generally only work when there's a network connection. Thick clients also make it possible for workers to continue being productive when they're in the field and connectivity isn't available, Gold said.
"You don’t want people stopping work just because they can't connect to the network," Gold said. "In thin-client mode, you're basically running a browser, HTML, Flash and Silverlight. Thick clients can run Java/J2ME, C++, Eclipse and Visual Studio apps."
Cost is also a factor in this discussion, since thin clients quickly become cost prohibitive if the network connection isn't unlimited. "In cases where data is expensive to transmit, thick clients are generally less expensive," Gold said. This trend is certain to continue as carriers move toward usage based pricing models.
It's also important to figure out if the enterprise application already has a mobile extension, and if so, whether it's available for thin or thick clients, Gold said. Given these wide ranging differences, Gold said most companies will require a hybrid approach that uses a combination of thin and thick clients to maximize reliability and functionality.
Register now to attend COMDEXvirtual or to access on-demand sessions.