Mobile cloud computing, where applications are driven from the “cloud” and not from the handheld device itself, is becoming a vital part of the business landscape. Is your company positioned to take advantage of this emerging and potent technology? Mobile apps powered by the cloud will include productivity applications that accentuate collaboration, data sharing and multitasking. Now is the time to adopt cloud computing strategies as there will be a seismic change in how information is distributed and applied.

“A lot of companies are dipping their toes into this new environment to see how their customers react,” says Toni Paoletta, Corporate College’s IT Program Manager. “Eventually mobile devices will replace desktops.”

Smart Business spoke with Paoletta about the shift to mobile and how business owners can take advantage of the new frontier.

What are some of the driving forces behind the shift to mobile devices?

Mobility is the key word. Mobile devices allow companies to take their products and services and place them directly at their customers’ fingertips. We have seen Internet-based tools and services reformulated to work on smaller devices. For example, customer relationship management and inventory control can now be managed remotely through the use of a mobile application on a smart phone.  In the past, you had to log on to an Internet browser, connect to a Web site and log in credentials to access a company’s services. Now you can have a mobile application on your smart phone that is able to access the same software, services and data instantaneously.

How big will the shift be?

The shift will be huge. Being able to control everything from the road is the wave of the future. The convenience factor of smart devices — they’re small, portable and have excellent battery life — will drive the need for customized mobile app development. The emergence of new smart phones and tablets has created a huge explosion in the mobile device market and a need for new, innovative apps that can function on these various platforms.

How does the mobility and prominence of the cloud impact the IT industry?

All IT industries will need to know how to deploy, support and maintain their company’s intellectual property that is made available through these mobile apps. Not only will companies have to support their current physical infrastructure, but they will also have to support and secure their cloud infrastructure. This will mean investing in increased storage and additional servers.

Besides infrastructure considerations, companies need to consider the deployment and sustainability of mobile devices and the applications that reside on these mobile devices.  If a company develops a mobile application for its customers, it must consider platform issues, interoperability, updates and security.

How does the shift towards mobile devices affect a company’s IT personnel?

IT personnel will need to become familiar with mobile devices and understand the capabilities of those devices, how to keep these devices updated and identify how they are going to fit within the company’s current IT environment. For example, an Apple iPad utilizes wireless Internet. If you have employees accessing data with an iPad from within the office you need a wireless infrastructure within your corporation that will support that access. Other considerations are software and operating system updates. How will your company manage these operating system updates on mobile devices? Are you providing a public cloud to your customers; meaning your software and services are available through a mobile app? If so, your security infrastructure will be critical to protect other applications, data or services available within the cloud. If you use a private cloud, how will you maintain access when there is a change in human capital within your organization and the app to connect to that private cloud resides on the employees’ personal smart phones? All of these questions need to be considered.

In order to address these issues, IT professionals need to expand their current skill set and become familiar with smart devices and how to access information in new ways.

What opportunities are available for application developers?

The sky is the limit for application developers as it relates to mobile app development. I think everyone who has a smart phone today has thought of an application they would love to write, whether it is a game they think would be cool, or a business app that would provide a solution to fix a problem. For instance, our college recently launched a mobile app called ‘Tri-C Mobile’ that provides students with information about courses, events, campus news, sports schedules and even the campus directory all through their smart phone. It is vital for people to start thinking about how they can transfer their business knowledge to a mobile device so people can access that information from anywhere.

How can business owners take advantage of and plan for these developments?

They need to think about what work they wish they could do if they were stuck at home, in traffic, or waiting in a line at the airport. They need to ask themselves how they can take advantage of these smart devices — these mini-handheld computers. They need to find software developers with business knowledge that can translate into innovative mobile apps. Every day you hear about companies launching their new ‘app.’ Whether it’s American Greetings’ ‘Ecard’ app, or Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff and its ‘Benesch Apportunity’ app to recruit new attorneys, mobile apps are going to change the way we do business. Businesses across the globe are leveraging the cloud to bring their business to their customers via mobile apps. It’s time to say goodbye to being tethered to a box; and say ‘Hi’ to mobile computing.

Toni Paoletta is Corporate College’s IT Program Manager. Reach her at toni.paoletta@tri-c.edu or (216) 987-2962.

Published in Cleveland