You probably have at least several screens of apps on your phone or tablet, but are they making your life easier, or are they just helping you kill time? Candy Crush is fun and all (or maybe soul-sucking, depending on how begrudgingly addicted you are), but it doesn’t help you get your job done.
When you decide to download a new app to help you with work, there are a few questions you should ask yourself. Is it any good? If it costs money, is it worth the price? Is it easy to use? Will it work on your computer, phone, and tablet? Will the IT department allow you to use it?
As a business owner, you want your employees to be able to work wherever they are, on whatever device they are using. You also want your IT department to feel good about the tools they manage. Mobile work can be tricky, but here are six of the best business apps to help ensure your employees won’t have to fight to keep their heads above water while they’re away from the office.
1. CloudOn. Named one of the Best Business Apps by Business Insider, CloudOn—for iOS and Android devices—provides full Microsoft Office file compatibility on mobile platforms and web browsers. All of your editing features are there for free, and if you get the Pro version ($3.99 per month), you will have access to track changes and other advanced features.
CloudOn’s interface is very similar to Microsoft Office, so it’s easy enough to use on the first try, and you won’t have to convert your files or save your work. It can access files from Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Hightail, and a few other file-sharing services. The app works on an iPad, Android phone, and through your browser on a desktop. That means CloudOn works on Mac OS, Windows, and even Chromebooks.
2. iSimplyConnect. This is an iPad-only, enterprise-VPN solution that gives users access to company files. iSimplyConnect is not a “screen scraper”; it doesn’t show your work computer’s screen. That means you can shut your computer down and go on a weeklong business trip without waste, and there’s not an app running in the background using computer resources.
With iSimplyConnect, employees use iPad apps for their work, and they’ll get a secure VPN connection to company files on the company server. Simply install the management software on an existing server connected to your domain, and set up users. Support for three users is $15 per month, but user support is scalable for a higher rate. If an employee leaves your company, simply deactivate their account. The same rule applies if the iPad is lost or stolen: Just turn off access.
3. Air Display. A “second screen” for iOS and Android, this app turns your phone or tablet into a second monitor for your Mac or Windows computer. It can even be used on a networked computer. Air Display requires a driver on your computer and the mobile app. Once installed, they connect via Wi-Fi. The mobile device then works just like a second monitor that is wired into your laptop or desktop computer.
This app will give you more screen real estate so you can be extra productive at your desk or on the go, whether you’re in a hotel room, on a flight, or in a business meeting. You can use your mouse on both screens or simply touch your tablet’s screen with your finger like you normally would.
4. OfficeTime. This one-time purchase time-tracker app for iOS can sync with OfficeTime software for Mac or PC and helps you keep better track of your working hours that you bill to clients. If you send inspectors out to a construction site or have to visit clients on a regular basis, this app could help you bill accordingly and also track expenses.
Set up your projects and their billable rate in the OfficeTime app. Then, when you work on the project, start the app, and a timer starts. When you finish working, turn the timer off. The app keeps track of the time and calculates the bill. Later, you can look through your projects to see when and how much you worked, add one-time expenses (like food or travel costs), and generate a bill—all on the go.
5. Cubby. Cubby is different from other file-sharing services in that all files are encrypted on your computer before they are transferred to the cloud. Even if the files are stolen, they will be protected, and the cloud servers can’t read the files, either. Cubby also provides a means to wipe a user’s data and passwords from a mobile device should it be lost, stolen, or the user is no longer employed by your company. Cubby allows users to share files privately or publicly and allows for read-or-write permissions. All versions also include unlimited file versioning.
There are three levels: a free service that gives you 5GB of storage for a single user, a pro level with a monthly subscription that grants a single user access to advanced features and increases as you increase the storage limits, or an enterprise version that shares 1TB of storage for multiple users.
6. Trello. Looking for a project-management app to keep your workflow flowing? The free Trello app, which InfoWorld calls one of the 20 great productivity apps, enables you to add lists, calendars, links to files or sites, notes, pictures, labels, and due dates to your project.
In Trello—which runs on iOS, Android, and your web browser—you can set up a “board” where you organize your project. Team members can then subscribe to the “cards” on your boards (sort of like Post-it notes), so they can be alerted when you make updates. Notifications are synced across all of your devices, so if you clear out of a notification on your phone, it won’t show up on your tablet or desktop.
After getting a bunch of projects going, you can use Trello’s search feature, labeling, and filtering tools to find what you need. All of your data is encrypted and sent over a secure, SSL/HTTPS connection. The premium version, Trello Gold, offers a few more bells and whistles and increases the allowable file size for attachments from 10MB to 250MB. There is also Trello Business Class, which gives all of your team members administrative tools, so you can see every board in your organization (public and private), manage users, remove users without losing the work they did for the company, restrict allowable email domains, and share boards to members outside of your company without having to show them everything.