How to Integrate an iPad into Your Small Business

Disclaimer:  I am not a tech guru, and this will not be a technical post. What I will do is tell you some useful ways that I found to integrate iPads into the daily operations of our safety and health consulting business.  Additionally, I have not tested multiple apps for each use that I will discuss, but I will review the apps that we feel have added value and efficiency to our business.  We are using “the new iPad” or iPad 3 as they are also known.

Although I will admit that I was on the fence about the iPad for business use, I am a technology junkie at heart.  In the end, I just could not resist trying it out.  Does it completely replace your laptop?  In my opinion, no.  However there are some things that I feel that are easier to do on the iPad, and it does eliminate the need to take your laptop everywhere you go.  The obvious benefits of an iPad include easy access to the internet, email, your calendar, and your contacts.  It also has a pretty good camera and video camera if you use those in your business.  Below are 9 additional uses that I have found for the iPad in our business and the apps that we use for each.

Use 1:  The iPad as a Replacement for a Regular Notebook

This is one of the first uses that I tested on my iPad.  Unless I need to only use intrinsically safe equipment (based on my meeting/project location), I generally take my iPad instead of a notebook.  I can type quicker that I can write, and since I do not have the best handwriting, I can read my notes after the fact a little easier.  My favorite note taking app is Notes Plus.  I use Notes Plus to take notes while I am on the phone, in meetings or even while performing safety audits.  You can email the notes to yourself as a pdf file and you can either type the notes or write using a stylus.  There’s even an audio record function that you can use.

Use 2:  Sign Documents or Contracts While Out of the Office

Do you get emails with documents that require your signature?  Generally, this requires printing the document, signing the document, scanning the document, and then sending it back by email or fax.  With apps like Easy Sign or PDF Expert, you can open the document in your email from the iPad, sign it with the app, and email it back.  The need for printing and scanning is removed.  I find that if you just need a signature, Easy Sign is great.  If you need to type in additional information, PDF Expert is far more useful.  This has saved me so much time and hassle  that I now use the iPad for signing documents even if I am in the office sitting at the computer.

Use 3: The iPad Can be Used as a Scanner

Do you need to scan documents when you are away from the office, or just want to eliminate paper copies of things like receipts?  Use your iPad as a scanner.  With Scanner Pro, you can take a picture of the document and save it as a jpg or pdf file.  It will integrate with other apps like Evernote or Dropbox, or you can just email it to yourself.  I actually like this app much better than my portable scanner that we have used in the past, and it reduces the equipment that I need to haul around.

Use 4:  Accept Credit Card Payments

With apps like Go Payment you can manually enter credit card payments or swipe a credit card using a device that the company sends you by mail.  This is great because it eliminates the need to be at your desk to input credit card data and writing down sensitive credit card information on paper forms.  Another app that I am aware of that works well for this is Square.  We have never used Square in our business, however I know some users that are very happy with this app.

Use 5:  Video Chat

Using Facetime (which comes standard on the iPad), you can video conference with other people who have Facetime on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad and you may save money by eliminating travel costs.  If you are traveling, you can video chat with your family while you are away.

Use 6:  You Can Print from the iPad

I use Print Central to print documents from my iPad when necessary.  If you have wireless printers in your office, this is very easy to set up.

Use 7:  Eliminate or Greatly Reduce Paper Forms

Does your business use paper forms in the field?  Do you have to waste space with files of paper or scan the forms once they get back in the office?  We use PDF Expert to greatly reduce our need for paper forms.  Create a pdf file of a form that you need and email to yourself.  You can then store it in the PDF Expert app for retrieval when you need it (you can create files in the app to easily locate documents).  Open the document and PDF Expert will let you type or write with a stylus on your form.  You can also save it as a new pdf file so that you can retain your master document.  You can then email it to yourself and save it on your computer.

Use 8:  Retrieve Documents from Your Computer

If you need to retrieve documents from your computer, there are several apps out there that you can use.  We use Sugar Sync.  Sugar Sync is one of my most used apps.  With Sugar Sync, you can buy storage to back-up your files online.  You can also use a shared folder for multiple users to access if you do not have a server.  You can also access your computer and the shared folder from your iPad, so you can access your documents wherever you are.

Use 9:  Create or Edit Documents

There are numerous apps that you can use to edit or create documents on the iPad.  My favorite is Pages.  I have created templates for my most often needed Word documents and have saved them in the Pages app for iPad.  You can transfer the documents using iTunes or a file sharing app like Sugar Sync or even just by email.  If your office computer is a Mac, saving the documents as Pages files works even better.  Once you need to edit the document, open it the Pages app on your iPad and edit it.  It saves automatically. When you done editing, press the wrench symbol at the top and then press “share and print” and you can email, print or share the document using apps that you have on your iPad.  It also lets you choose to keep the document as a Pages file, or convert it to a Word document or pdf file.  This process works pretty well unless you have a lot of tables in your documents.  In that case, I have not found any app that is flawless.  Still, this is a really good solution for smaller documents like letters, proposals, etc.

You have seen some of the ways we have integrated the iPad into our business so far.  I am still working on the best solution for editing and presenting PowerPoint presentations on the iPad and I am currently testing Slide Shark.  Do you have any great business uses for the iPad?  Let us know!