Look around you: how many devices do you see that require a wireless Internet connection? Laptops, speakers, cameras and the most connected of them all — the precious smartphone. In a perfect world, all of these things would connect to the Internet at a reliable, fast speed, wherever you were — as long as a connection is available. But what about when no Internet connection is available?

Wireless technology has had a tremendous impact on our work and personal lives over the past 20 years. We’ve adapted to a more flexible work life — working from home, in the field and while traveling. And we've all experienced poor Internet connections. Now that we rely so extensively on wireless Internet, what happens when we lose that connection?

The Need for Offline Access

With smartphones and tablets now part of standard-issued office gear, a rising proportion of workers expect to work wherever and whenever they want. But many enterprise applications, including enterprise content management (ECM) systems, manage critical business information yet do not offer the ability to work offline. To meet the needs of the workers, platforms should provide access to information and seamless workflow functionality at all times, including when Internet connections are unavailable.

Case workers often are required to make quick decisions while away from the office. With mobile access, these workers can review critical documents and make decisions on pending matters, accelerating the process. Similarly, claims adjusters can upload images of damaged vehicles or property losses to facilitate payment authorization on claims. Lacking a wireless or cellular connection, work is delayed and mistakes can be made.

Worrisome Workarounds

Employees haven't allowed this lack of access to stop them. They've devised workarounds to access the data or information they need in case Internet connectivity isn’t a given or bandwidth is low.

Workers traveling to areas with spotty or nonexistent Internet connections or broadband take a variety of steps to ensure that they’re prepared. The most common one is printing hard copies of required documents, which we all know isn’t the most productive or safest way to access information.

According to a recent IDC survey, 62 percent of respondents said they work around not having offline access to information by emailing themselves critical files. Nearly half (47 percent) said they store a file or document locally on a device, and 44 percent load up a USB stick or some other type of external drive to save and transport critical material to and from the office.

The survey also noted that nearly half of the respondents (48 percent) admit to copying and pasting whole files or documents into corporate systems, 39 percent download data from external drives and 36 percent retype recorded data into the primary business systems. 

Regardless of the approach, these efforts are labor-intensive and time-consuming, taking an average of 45 minutes — time that could be better spent on higher-value business activities. And we're not going to go into the security nightmares that any single one of these workarounds opens up for a business.

Benefits Beyond the Field

It’s not just the field worker or sales rep who benefits from offline access to critical business documents, files and data. Sixty-one percent of executive managers, including C-level and senior management, saw value in accessing critical business data while offline via their mobile devices.

With offline capabilities, users can jump-start processes that depend on offsite data collection, eliminating delays and risks that can result from duplicate data entry or missed paperwork. Earlier adopters have figured it out: you can't rely on Internet access to get work done.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by  steevithak