IT professionals answer a lot of questions. Some are unusual and situation-specific, while others are common. Lately, we’ve been fielding inquiries about replacing laptop or desktop machines with tablet computers.  While industry gossip says the new Google Nexus 7 may shake up the category, this article focuses on the current frontrunner, the iPad.

More business is being done using small and mobile devices. Recent estimates say 50% of work is being done on desktop or laptop machines, 30% on iPads, and 20% on smart phones.

Tempted to make the switch? Before you decide, think about how you use a computer and what tasks you regularly perform. Then consider the following.

iPads are useful —and fun! With a huge range of apps to choose from, iPads provide great utility and entertainment. They have bigger displays and different capabilities than smart phones.

iPads are great for experiencing many kinds of media. The new retina display renders sharp text and rich colors, and an iPad can take photos and videos.

iPads are portable. They boot quickly and are a great way to read e-mail, access and organize information, and perform a multitude of tasks. The combination of size and boot speed makes them a nice companion. (Any portable device can be misplaced, so protect your data and use security apps to prevent access by others.)

The iPad’s touchscreen keypad is challenging for those used to a more tactile experience.  For reports, proposals or lengthy e-mails, they can cut efficiency by as much as 75 percent. While accessory keyboards are available, they do take away from the device’s main selling point—its small size. Apple recognized this and responded by offering a dictation feature, and may eventually offer its long-awaited version of the Smart Cover with an integrated keyboard.

If you’re a multi-tasker used to having several programs open at once and switching between them as you work, iPads can present some frustration. While improvements have been made in the most recent model, switching between recently used apps is still time-consuming.

If you do a lot of printing, you’ll find printing from an iPad different. To print, you’ll need an AirPrint enabled printer connected to the same wifi network as the iPad. This will allow you to print from iBooks, Mail, Photos, and Safari.  If you don’t have access to an AirPrint enabled printer, third party programs such as Fingerprint allow you to print through your computer. Other apps, such as PrintCentral, let you print directly from iPad.

Another thing to consider is file handling. On an iPad, files are stored in the app used to create them.  If you’re used to putting files on a USB drive, the lack of a USB port will be noticeable. Most users work around this by using file transfer apps, uploading files to cloud storage services such as DropBox, or e-mailing smaller files. This isn’t difficult, but these extra steps can further reduce efficiency.

So, what’s our answer to clients who ask about replacing a desktop or laptop computer with an iPad? For most, we don’t recommend it. A combination of things can make performing a wide array of common business tasks time-consuming and often awkward, but we do recommend iPads as a way to enhance productivity for those who also have a primary computer.

For someone on the go, an iPad can be great for staying connected, involved and entertained when the power and ease of a computer is either unavailable or unnecessary. And they are, undeniably, really cool.

Russ Levanway is the CEO of TekTegrity, an IT Managed Services Provider serving the Central Coast and Central Valley. The organization’s Total Systems Management™ (TSM) service model provides preventative IT support at fixed monthly fee levels. For more information, visit www.tektegrity.com.