The Mobile Workforce Takeover

There has been a noticeable increase in the virtual workforce, which means more people will telecommute or work on the road rather than come into the office. In fact, by year’s end, an estimated 1 billion people will be working remotely. With the number of mobile professionals on the rise, companies need to rethink what they require from a laptop.

While a standard laptop can satisfy professionals that spend the majority of their time tethered to a desk, a purpose built device is needed for those that spend considerable time on the road. Key considerations when purchasing a mobile device include weight, battery life, connectivity, performance, remote management, reliability and warranty.

Mobile professional may live their life in a constant state of travel. Because of this, large and heavy desktop replacement laptops are not ideal. Today, powerful mobile computing solutions can be had in the sub-four pound range. Most mobile workers will say “the lighter the better” when it comes to laptops.

Battery life is also a major consideration for mobile professionals. Most laptops get great battery life if you plan to work away from your desk for merely an hour or two, but longer stretches away from a power source often require extended life batteries that add to the size and weight of the laptop. Some devices offer over ten hours of battery life with a standard battery, allowing for non-stop work on cross-country connections or overseas flights.

At a time when constant connectivity is critical to the success of highly mobile professionals, it is important to have a laptop that can provide reliable wireless connections at all times – at home and abroad. Flexible broadband wireless connection choices, such as Gobi 2000, make life easier for IT professionals, as they eliminate the considerable amount of time it takes to swap out radios every time a field worker needs to connect to a new carrier network. For IT managers it is also important to find computing devices with superior radio and antenna placement, from a manufacturer with extensive wireless experience, in order to give mobile workers the ability to remain connected anywhere.

It goes without saying that processor performance is critical, but I’m still surprised that some enterprises have considered netbook-type devices because of price, size and weight. Unfortunately, there is a trade off with these devices that results in reduced performance as well as reliability and functionality issues. Securing mobile devices with enough power to run robust applications ensures that professionals will never suffer from performance anxiety.

As greater numbers of employees go mobile, remote management and security become key issues for IT professionals. Fortunately, processor like the Intel’s Core™ i5 offer many benefits for companies trying to manage remote devices.

More importantly, mobile professionals need durable laptops that can survive drops and spills – the two major causes of laptop failure. If a device is MIL-SPEC rated, but not for drops and spills, it’s not likely to meet your needs. Consider that – according to a survey for business laptops the annual average failure rate is 22%. That’s surprisingly high, so finding devices that protect against key areas of failure is critical.

Warranty can also be an indicator of reliability. If a manufacture is only willing to back its device with a standard one-year warranty, that’s not a good sign of confidence. There are laptops designed for mobility that offer standard three-year warranties, so you can be sure the device will be supported well into its deployment and without additional costs.

A great example of a device that fits all these criteria is the new Panasonic Toughbook® S9. It’s a three pound, 12.1” laptop equipped with the Intel® Core™ i5 520M vPro™ processor, 11 hours of standard battery life, embedded Gobi mobile broadband and an exceptionally low failure rate – the average annual failure rate across the Toughbook product line is an exceptionally low 2.4% – making it a very attractive solution for IT managers and road warriors alike.  It even includes a DVD drive to use all that extra battery life when your work is done. You can check it out here.