How to run your business from your mobile
3rd Apr 2012 | 08:00
How to put your business on to your mobile phone
You're on the school run and your phone rings. It's your biggest client and they're asking if you can schedule an important meeting for next week, and they need a quote for a job like-yesterday. What do you do? You're out of the office and you don't have your laptop? The answer is staring you in the face: you can use your smartphone.
The first thing you need to do to make your business more mobile is to sync your phone with your calendar and your contacts. If you have a smartphone, then this is best achieved with an app and there are plenty of good apps that sync your contacts and calendars.
Getting your email on your mobile
E-mail is a business tool that we can't be without even for a few minutes. So it should be on your phone. Most phones have the ability to read emails, either via the Web or by syncing your emails directly to your phone. If your business uses Microsoft's Exchange Server then there's the ability built-in to Exchange to display emails via the web. To do this you will need to have Exchange's Outlook Web App (OWA) enabled, and that's not a trivial process, and for most businesses its best avoided.
If you don't use Exchange then you will need to delve into your manual a little deeper. If your email is POP or IMAP enabled, and most are, even free services like Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, then chances are you will be able to use your phone's built-in email reader to grab your business emails.
Most smartphones worth their salt will link into your mobile's email without much trouble. The iPhone email application and Android email app will connects seamlessly to most services and all you need do is select your email provider and add your email address and password, and the phone will do the rest.
Alternatively if your mail provider has an Android or Apple iOS application then all you need to do is download it from the app store and install it, then put in your username and password and you're up and running.
Once email is setup on your phone you'll be able to read and send emails, and read standard attachments like Excel, Word and PDF documents. However what you won't be able to do is create or edit those documents, to do this you will need an office app for your phone.
There are quite a lot of applications around for editing and creating Office documents but amongst the best are; Quickofficehttp://www.quickoffice.com/ and Documents to Gohttp://www.dataviz.com/products/documentstogo).
Matching your calendars
If you use Google Calendar, or you use Outlook for your calendars then syncing your mobile calendar and your main calendar is straightforward, particularly on iPhones and Android devices.
To sync your Outlook calendar with an iPhone is a case of ticking a box in iTunes (there's a tick box option in the Info tab on iTunes to sync your calendars with Outlook) and from then on your calendar is synchronised every time you plug in.
However if someone adds something to your calendar back in the office while you're out, then it won't be reflected on your phone until you physically sync your iPhone. To get your calendar synchronised over the Internet you will need to register for Apple's iCloud service.
Gmail has the advantage that it will sync with your Outlook calendar and your mobile calendar automatically. However, it's not as straightforward as downloading the Google Gmail application, you will first need to download Google's Calendar Sync (http://support.google.com/calendar/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=98563&topic=13948&ctx=topic) application to your desktop first. Once that's complete if you have an Android phone you will need to setup your account in your Android Calendar settings, and if you have an iPhone you need to go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account and then add your Gmail settings.
Sync your mobile contacts with Outlook
The last piece of the office in your pocket jigsaw is synchronising your contacts. The last thing you want in a business is to have multiple contact lists. If you put a contact into your phone it should update your desktop contacts and vice versa. Luckily most smartphones support contact synchronisation, either through a downloadable application from a mail service like Gmail or Yahoo, or when you plug your iPhone into your desktop and sync using iTunes(Once again there's a tick box option in the Info tab on iTunes to sync your contacts with Outlook).
Remote access to your desktop
If you don't want the hassle of syncing your contacts, calendar and your emails then there's one last option that's available, but it's only really applicable if you have a smartphone with a big enough screen.
Remote access software LogMeIn allows you to access your office desktop from any phone with a web browser, all you need to do is setup LogMeIn on your desktop or even your laptop – you can have as many PCs and Macs setup to use LogMeIn – and then from your mobile go to www.logmein.com and login with your username and password. You get an exact – but much smaller – replica of your desktop on your phone and from there you can remotely access all the apps and files available to you on your desktop.
If you're an iPhone, iPad or Android user there's a LogMeIn app that makes everything a little bit more usable and although it's expensive at £17.99 it's well worth the price.