Apple’s iPad can be used for more than just casual game play and video watching. It can also be a powerful tool in your computer repair business toolbox. With other competing tablets emerging in the market, I still feel the iPad has an advantage over them because of one key factor: apps. iPad has been in the game for over a year now and has wooed developers with a large passionate user base. As such, tons of apps are being developed on this platform that aren’t on the others.
I’ve had a 1st generation iPad for almost a year now and I’ve been looking for ways to utilize it for my business. It’s perfect for situations where you need a quick and ultra-portable way to connect to the web and get things done when you’re on-site with a customer.
Now that it has been out for a while, there are plenty of business productivity apps that have emerged as great tools for the consultant on-the-go. Although a lot of these apps are also available on the iPhone, for business purposes, they are much easier to use and manage on the larger screen of the iPad. Here are my top picks, all of which I have been using in my business with great success.
I’ve already recommended this app in my article about payment collection. I mentioned how it can be used on a phone, but it also has an iPad version that can use the same card-swipe dongle that you use for the phone. It pretty much works the same on the iPad as it does on the phone, but the big difference with the iPad version comes when your customer has to sign for their purchase. The Square app allows the purchaser to sign with their finger, which can be awkward on a tiny phone screen. It’s much easier and more natural on the iPad.
Those of you who use Log Me In to offer remote support for your customers, this is an essential app for you. If you’re out on a consulting visit and get a call from another customer who needs some quick assistance, you can fire up Log Me In Ignition on your iPad and take care of it lickity-split! It’s surprisingly easy to use and quick, though if you want to take control of the mouse, it can be a bit difficult to navigate with your finger. I use it mostly to watch the screen and guide the customer through the repair. It’s definitely not for any complicated troubleshooting, but perfect for a quick easy fix that you need to see the screen to accomplish.
For remote access back to YOUR computer while on the go, I recommend VNC Viewer. This is because it requires the software to be installed and configured on the computer first, which may not be appropriate for your customers. This is also a great option for managing a network of computer for a small business. The Enterprise version of Real VNC is more robust and feature-rich than Log Me In, but also a bit more expensive. Try out both and see which one meets your need. It’s good to have options!
Good Reader is the best app I’ve found for opening any documents you can think of like PDF, text files, Word docs, pictures, and more. It handles large files very well and can connect to an FTP server to retrieve files. That’s about it, simple and powerful, perfect for the iPad.
For the next level in document management, nothing beats Apple’s suite of office productivity apps. The iWork quite includes Keynote (presentations), Numbers (spreadsheets), and Pages (word processor). All these apps are surprisingly full featured and made specifically to take advantage of the iPad. I use these programs mainly to create invoices or convert documents on the go.
If you haven’t yet heard of Drop Box, you’re missing out. It’s a dead simple program that allows you to sync files on your computer to other computers, devices, and the cloud. What this means is that anything you drag into your Drop Box folder is not only backed up, but also available on any computer or device that you have drop box installed on.
I use a hack that allows my Documents folder to be used as my Drop Box folder, so things I save there (which are most files by default) are available on my other computers and iPad. I use Drop Box on the iPad to access customer information, past invoices, technical documents, or anything else I’ve saved in my Documents folder while out and about. You can then open it up in GoodReader and you’re set!
Evernote has been the leading cloud-based note taking application for years now. It has a lot of cool features and is a great way to organize all your notes in one place. You can make text notes, write notes with your finger, or even dictate notes with your voice. They’re all stored and organized in Evernote for later reference. Another cool feature is the ability to take pictures (for iPad 2 only) and save those as a note. So if you’re at a client’s house and you want to to take a picture of the system and make some notes to go along with it, you’re covered by Evernote.
I also use this app to access research I’ve done at home. If I’ve looked up some information on an issue before hand, I can save some notes and website clippings into Evernote and access them on-site.
This is a little known gem of an app that has really come in handy for my business. The computer inventory app is basically a database for keeping track of computer equipment. It’s a very simple but flexible tool. I use this app to keep track of my customer’s computer inventory. This way, if I ever get a call back from that customer, I can look up their computer equipment in this database and have all the info at my fingertips. You can also use this app to keep track of your own network hardware, shop inventory, or manage the computer inventory of small business customers.
An organizer on steroids, ToDo is a great way to keep track of your projects and day-to-day activities. Use it to plot your daily activities so you don’t double-book yourself with clients. It has a great old-school planner interface that you can customize with different skins. You can sync your tasks and lists with iCal, Outlook, or the ToDo website so you can access them on your computer as well.
This app is pretty straight forward, but powerful. Print from your iPad via 3G or Wifi. You can print directly to a WiFi printer or a computer-connected printer of any type. All you need is to install a free print server app on the computer that the printer is connected to. This keeps you from easily printing from a client’s computer, but you can always carry a small bluetooth or WiFi printer with you and print work orders, receipts or any other documentation directly from your iPad! How cool is that?
What iPad apps do you use in your business that I’m missing? Please let me know in the comments below!