Tactical Advice

Take Your Desktop on the Road

BlackBerry Professional Software gives workers access to Outlook features on their mobile phones.
This story appears in the March 2010 issue of BizTech Magazine.

For small businesses that want to stay connected and productive while on the go, few devices are as powerful as a BlackBerry. This mobile workhorse offers unparalleled stability and usability. But in the past, to truly harness the depth of control the BlackBerry provides, companies had to acquire a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (and corresponding licenses) — a major up-front investment. But with BlackBerry Professional Software, users have access to nearly all the features of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server without the expense.

End-User Advantages

The scope of features that BlackBerry Professional Software has to offer companywide is nearly identical to that of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, at a fraction of the cost. Managers can wipe a handheld directly from the server software with a few simple clicks, which protects corporate data in the event of a device theft or loss.

Users can fully synchronize their devices with their Outlook contacts, tasks, e-mails and calendar events. If a device is lost, the BlackBerry Professional Software system can automatically reload all of this to a new device with little user interaction. If a user adds a contact while on the go, the system transparently creates a contact in Outlook, continuing the seamless integration.

The exponential growth of the BlackBerry platform throughout the business sector has generated an enormous collection of affordable productivity apps for users, available through BlackBerry App World — everything from organization apps to specialized calculators and convertors that can be added directly from the handset.

Why It Works for IT

For IT staff, the BlackBerry Professional Software system brings the same level of security that network admins have come to expect from all of Research In Motion’s products. From device-specific policies controlling a user’s access to companywide group policies, everything within the system is designed to keep corporate data as safe as the IT manager deems necessary.

In conjunction with that, all attempts to access the Internet with the BlackBerry can be routed through the corporate firewall, thus filtering user content on the go. Another on-the-go feature lets admins wirelessly activate a handset without the user needing a computer or Internet connection. Setting up a wireless activation password is a simple process and keeps users productive and connected, no matter their location.

Admins can also use a personal identification number to send messages directly to the device to update users on service outages or routine maintenance. No other mobile device offers a centralized management solution and overall control comparable to the BlackBerry mobile suite.

Disadvantages

For all the advantages a BlackBerry Professional Software install provides, there are some disadvantages. First, the system supports plain-text e-mail only; it does not support proper display of HTML-encoded e-mail. So, while standard e-mail will appear correctly, anything with embedded HTML code will show as a jumble of letters and hyperlinks.

Then there is the threat of a BlackBerry data outage at Research In Motion, the service provider. If this happens, then no BlackBerrys within your company will be able to send or receive e-mail until service is restored.

Despite these minor hassles, BlackBerry Professional Software is a powerful and cost-effective approach for any small- to medium-size business that wants a more affordable pathway into the BlackBerry world.

Paul Zimmerman is an IT consultant in Sun Valley, Idaho.
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