In order to open a more traditional brick-and-mortar kind of business, you likely need to take out a lease on some retail space, invest in a POS system, buy your store fixtures, hire some staff, load up on inventory, and otherwise absorb a wealth of operating expenses. By contrast, running an online business can be a lot leaner and a lot let expensive to get started.
Depending on what you want to do, your initial investment might be little more than some Internet access, web hosting and a domain name. Given this, it’s also understandable that you don’t need to have the most powerful computer in the world. Would it be possible, then, to get rid of your computer altogether and get everything done on an iPad (or similar tablet) instead? It’d be easy to travel with and it could be a lot more convenient, but what would you need to get started?
Cloud Storage Options
Even if you get the highest model iPad, you’re stuck with no more than 128GB of storage, some of which will be occupied by iOS itself. You’re going to have files and documents that you’ll need to save and, even if you have the space to save them, you don’t want to lose your iPad (or have it stolen) and lose the entirety of your business in the process.
There are a lot of web-based utilities out there, but you will also want to invest in some cloud storage too. Over on CNET, you’ll find a handy little comparison guide.
- Microsoft OneDrive: 15GB free
- Dropbox: 2GB free
- Google Drive: 15GB free
- iCloud Drive: 5GB free
There are pros and cons to any of these service providers and there’s nothing stopping you from combining them for different purposes. If you want to have greater control over your backups, you can look into some of the personal cloud products from companies like Western Digital and Seagate.
Some people are perfectly comfortable with the on-screen keyboard on the iPad. The rest of us can use that keyboard in a pinch, but anything longer than a short email could prove to be more painful than it is worth. It is a good idea to invest in a quality Bluetooth keyboard.
There are tons of options out there, including some that effectively transform your iPad into a clamshell-style laptop, some that integrate an iPad stand, some that extend the battery life of your iPad, and so on. Shop accordingly and pick the one that works best for you. It’s a good idea to try them out in person (or read plenty of reviews), because you’ll want one that is comfortable, accurate and responsive.
The Apps You’ll Need
This will depend heavily on the kind of online business that you run, as there are tons of specific iPad apps to suit different purposes. I’m also not going to list the apps that would be essential, but are already pre-installed, like handling your email and calendar.
- HootSuite: In addition to the dedicated apps for various social networks, having a unified social media dashboard like HootSuite is a tremendous idea. This is especially true since it allows for scheduling, analytics and multiple account management.
- WordPress: Even if you get a mobile-friendly interface for your WordPress site, the dedicated app can be even better. The WordPress app can do almost everything you can do through the regular dashboard.
- QuickAdSense: It’s true that you won’t find any Google AdSense ads on John Chow dot Com. It’s also true that a lot of websites are monetized with AdSense. If you fall into the latter group, this third-party app is a better way to keep track of your earnings than the official one. You will still need to log in through the browser to get your ad code, however.
- Google Analytics: It doesn’t matter if you’re a blogger, you’re an affiliate marketer, or you run an e-commerce site, you need to know your numbers. And Analytics is still the de facto standard for recording and interpreting your site traffic.
- iMovie: In addition to a basic image editor, it’s also a good idea to have a good video editor, particularly if you want to do anything like the “Driving with John Chow” series. An iPad will never be as good as a true video editing rig, but the iMovie app is pretty great for mobile.
The Question Isn’t Whether You Can…
… it’s if you want to.
For the most part, it is possible to run your online business completely from an Apple iPad or a similar tablet device, but it’s not going to be particularly ideal. There are just going to be times when working in front of a real computer is just better, especially if you can run multiple monitors or if you need the added horsepower for video editing.
Some websites also won’t render properly within the mobile Safari browser on your iPad and, even when they do, navigating them might not be the best through a touchscreen. The iPad can be a good tool for when you’re away from the (home) office, but I wouldn’t recommend having it as your only means to access the Internet and run your business.