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Mobility and flexible working through the cloud

The cloud combined with mobile computing allows organisations to innovate in new ways. The combination allows business leaders to develop strategies to improve competitiveness, increase staff productivity and efficiency, and get closer to customers.

This HP whitepaper looks at how scalable mobile technology with the cloud aids remote and flexible working, and allows staff to use the devices and applications they want to use for the benefit of the business.

Read more: The top five latest trends in cloud computing

Mobile cloud data storage

Although storage technology has allowed significant amounts of data to be kept on small storage cards in smartphones and tablets, many users may still find them insufficient or inconvenient for storing the information they need in order to take advantage of new services.

So why deal with storage cards when you can simply store the data you need in the cloud? Instead of keeping data locally on a limited capacity card inside a limited capacity mobile device, the data can be stored and accessed through the cloud whenever you want and from any device.

Mobile device energy use

Another factor to consider with the mobile cloud is device energy use, which is very important when devices have to be constantly charged. The intensive computations needed with new services can rapidly gobble up energy.

The cloud can be used to house the CPUs (central processing units) in servers to do the computations, which can then be used to send the results to the mobile device. While not suitable for all operations, this scenario is ideal for trawling a large remote database for business information or using data analytics to drill down into an ERP (enterprise resource planning) application, for instance.

Mobile cloud email

The move to email in the cloud on mobile devices is well-established and communications via cloud-based social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are widely used by organisations. Indeed, traditional email and social media services are converging through unified communications platforms, which combine voice over IP telephony, video conferencing, instant messaging and social media.

With mobile video-conferencing, users can use cloud-based apps on their laptops, smartphones or tablets to stay in touch, with the facility usually charged on a per-use basis. As many other mobile cloud-based applications use the same pricing model, small firms can enjoy the connectivity only larger corporates could previously enjoy. Other useful cloud-based mobile solutions include field service management, printing from a mobile device, and the virtualisation of mobile operating systems to deliver greater data security.

Read more: 10 major cloud computing terms you need to know

Field service management

With field service management, suppliers can offer applications to control staff in the field using a SaaS (software-as-a-service) model via the cloud. The software can be tailored to offer predictive customer communications, for example. Those expecting a site visit from an engineer or other agent can be automatically informed of arrival times based on their changing workloads and location. This means customers don't have to wait all day or even half a day for a service visit, with many organisations now able to inform customers within the hour for the arrival of a visit.

Cloud printing

On the printing side, free and paid-for cloud-printing services are springing up that allow users to print from laptops, smartphones and tablets to any printer via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Both printing and third-party companies are jumping on the cloud printing market to help give a lift to the rather stagnant office printing industry.

Some users are being offered a fixed level of free data storage in the cloud, which allows them to access a streamlined number of common business applications and databases. As well as printing, users can of course use their cloud data access to simply work on documents. This is particularly useful for smartphones, as they then don't have to have the same level of locally stored applications and work files as a desktop, to be able to function as an office computer in a remote location. This is an alternative to the thin-client or "server-based" computing model which delivers a "mirror image" of a main desktop to a mobile device. It's cheaper and uses less power.

Mobile virtualisation

With mobile virtualisation, end users can benefit by being able to run multiple profiles, for example, one for personal use and one for work use, on the same smartphone. Cloud-based mobile virtualisation sees a thin layer of software embedded on a mobile phone that decouples the applications and data from the underlying hardware.

Companies are under increasing pressure from employees to support employee-owned mobile devices under bring your own device (BYOD) policies. Mobile virtualisation applications allow IT organisations to deploy a corporate phone "personality" that can run alongside, but separate from, the employee's personal data on the same physical device.

Read more: Public, private, hybrid: Which cloud is best for your business?

If they do this, they can deploy separate security rules and protection to guard the data within the corporate profile on the single business/personal phone, to meet their data compliance needs.

The requirement to allow mobile and flexible working in some capacity among staff is now critical to most organisations, and the cloud is allowing them to deliver it, helped by the pay per use model offered by cloud service providers.