More and more traveling executives are leaving their laptops behind in favor of the iPad. They're writing documents, crunching numbers, and sharing files. Can you really swap your laptop with an iPad? Here is my three-part game plan for success:
1. Cloud Storage: Dropbox
Dropbox is a cloud storage service. There are other services out there, such as MobileMe, iDevice, SugarSync and Box.net (which is more geared toward enterprises). But I like Dropbox because of its simplicity. It's just a file folder in the cloud.
To get started, you'll need to download the Dropbox app and create an account at Dropbox.com. I suggest you do this on your Mac or PC first. There's a three-tiered pricing plan based on the amount of storage: 2GB (free), 50GB ($10 per month), and 100GB ($20 per month).
Next, you'll want to download the Dropbox app on all of your computers (laptop, iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) using the same Dropbox account name. The free apps simply allow you to access your file folder and view its contents, including streaming music and movies stored in Dropbox. You can also access your file folder by going to the Dropbox.com Web site and logging in.
You can move files into Dropbox on your laptop by simply dragging and dropping them inside the Dropbox file folder. Any new file or changes you make to older files inside Dropbox are instantly encrypted and uploaded to the Dropbox server and viewable on any device with a Dropbox app (assuming, of course, you have an Internet connection).
Tip: A blue icon appears next to the file during this process and turns into a green check mark once it's completed.
One of the great features of Dropbox is the ability to share folders with other Dropbox users. Right click a folder in Dropbox, go to Dropbox in the menu, and select Share This Folder. A Web page will open that lets you enter recipient email addresses, inviting people to have access to the folder. The folder will appear in their Dropboxes.
You can also share individual files with non-users. Right click the file in Dropbox, go to Dropbox in the menu, and select Copy Public Link. Then paste the link in an email and send to the recipient.
2. Productivity App: Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite
Viewing Dropbox files on your iPad is fine, but what if you need to work on them? You will need an iPad productivity app. While Apple's office productivity tools (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) work pretty well, most people still use Microsoft Office. There are a few mobile Microsoft Office apps, but my favorite is Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite for the iPad($15).