Mobile Access to ResultsPlus!

We’ve had a number of requests from our customers to enable mobile access to ResultsPlus. Today I have some exciting news I can share as the result of research and newly available technologies. But first, let me regale you with the history of our research into mobile access options for ResultsPlus.

Most of our customers do not have a web server available that can safely retrieve from and submit data to the ResultsPlus database in a secure manner. Because of this, if a customer is using the installed version of ResultsPlus, there is no place for customers to install the needed web services to support real-time access to data while on-the-go.

Another issue was that of very limited access to data. And by this, I’m referring to two unique types of limitations.

  • What data can a person reasonably view at a given time? Given the screen resolution on most smart phones, we were looking at what we should and should not display (read, what’s most important to see while on-the-go?).
  • Smartphone Data Usage limits. We still don’t have a very good answer for this issue, but with the news I’m about to share, it has been largely mitigated.

So…what’s the news?

I’ve been test driving the new Microsoft Surface tablet, and I’ve been impressed. I’ve been impressed on a personal, “Ooh, isn’t this cool and fun” level but, more importantly, I’ve been impressed with what it brings to the table for mobile computing as it pertains to productivity applications (vs. recreational applications like Angry Birds or Words with Friends).

I’ll mention what excited me during my tests. Then I’ll mention the tools I used to perform my tests. Please note that this post is not intended to be a review of the Microsoft Surface tablet; my post is specifically geared towards my experience with researching what it makes palatable when used to access ResultsPlus while on-the-go.

The Microsoft Surface tablet enabled me to connect to remote computers via a mechanism most people are very familiar and comfortable with: Remote Desktop. It’s embedded in the operating system (in the case of the tablet I was using, Windows RT). You can also download a free “Metro” version of the application. I tested both versions of the utility, and they performed equally well.

I quickly connected to the ResultsPlus Online demo site using my user name and password. I immediately had access to ResultsPlus in a secure, online environment while sitting at home (and then, later, at a coffee shop). Because Surface is a touch-enabled tablet, I was able to use gestures I’ve become familiar with when using my smartphone. I could look up a constituent by simply tapping the Find button with my finger and entering the characters for the name, for example. I wasn’t limited to the small screen of a smartphone (which I’ve used for other tests when researching mobile access). I wasn’t limited to only certain subsets of data (as would be the case with web services and working within the confines of the small screen for display). I had full access to all my data while on-the-go. I was working with the live data in its native environment (so I had access to real-time updates that my colleagues were making back at the office). Also, I was able to do this without needing a web server to host any ResultsPlus-specific and proprietary web services.

I feel I should point out that the tests did highlight an issue I found to be minorly annoying with the Surface tablet: it is Wi-Fi only. What if I am not in a location with Wi-Fi access? In the case of my tests, I used my smartphone as a hotspot and connected to the internet that way to try out mobile access without Wi-Fi. (Problem solved, but it did require an extra step.) I also feel I should note that my tests were done against our hosted environment. Our ResultsPlus Online customers could start doing this tomorrow, but what about customers who have ResultsPlus installed on-premise? This may or may not present a problem. If you currently have a Terminal or Remote Desktop Services server, or can RDP to your workstation now, you can use the Surface tablet without having to jump through any special connectivity hoops.

But what if you use an iPad or an Android tablet? I’ve tested Android and been unimpressed with the options. While technically “doable,” the experience has been less than delightful. However, what’s available for Android changes every day, just as it does for the iPad, so my past experience may no longer be valid. I’ll let you know when I test Android again and share any good news. To date, I’ve not done any tests with an iPad.

Has anyone out there done any tests of their own? What has your experience been?

And finally, what did I need to perform my tests?

  • Microsoft Surface tablet
  • Access to ResultsPlus Online (or you can use your standard login used to connect via remote desktop at your organization)
  • Connections to a couple different Wi-Fi networks (one secured via WEP, the other public Wi-Fi)
  • A smartphone with hotspot capabilities