Mobile devices. Cloud storage. New OS and apps. If that sounds like a recipe for your worst headache, ever, it's time you adjusted your thinking.
Here's the thing: You know that your employees are doing more and more on smartphones and tablets. You also know that Windows 8 is helping them do this by bringing a full Windows experience together with a mobile-friendly user interface. So far, so good. The problems start when the applications and datasets that users need begin to overrun the memory limitations of the teeny-tiny devices that are so mobile and useful. That's where things get complicated and the cloud can become your friend. Or your nemesis. It's really up to you.
Windows 8 tablets (full tablets, not tablet-laptop hybrids) are just beginning to hit the market. It's been assumed that many vendors and users have been waiting for Microsoft to release the Surface Pro as a way to both see what the minimum hardware configuration will be and to gauge user interest. Some people have already laid hands on the Microsoft system and they report that the 64GB version of the tablet has only 23GB of space left on the disk after Windows 8 and its basic associated apps are loaded. If that sounds like a lot of storage to you, then it's time to get back in your rocker on the ole' digital porch and let the kids take over.
By the time you add a few enterprise apps and the digital flotsam that tends to end up on any mobile device (yes, I'm looking at you, cat pictures), you're starting to get awfully tight on storage. There are three things you can do to boost the memory available for enterprise use. Each has its issues, but at least one of them should be on your radar before Windows 8 enterprise tablets start hitting your organization:
Option 1: cloud storage -- Cloud storage, either through public services like Dropbox or Microsoft Skydrive, or through private services you build for your enterprise, can help by keeping most of the data necessary for enterprise apps in the cloud, along with pretty much all the cat pictures an employee could want. There are a couple of issues, of course. One is connectivity -- the cloud is dramatically less useful if you don't have an Internet connection. The other is policy-based: You must decide how your organization is going to cope with cloud storage, how you'll make it fit within the regulatory frameworks that rule your life, and how to make sure all the cloud-dwelling data is secured. That makes for lots of questions circling some very small devices.
Option 2: virtual desktops -- If you have users connect to the enterprise applications via a virtual client the data never leaves the safe confines of the enterprise server, minimal space is required on the tablet, and all transactions are (presumably) secured via VPN. Of course, we're back to the whole connectivity issue, but 3G versions of tablets should help minimize those problems, though costs could rise. Many enterprise IT groups have decided to go this route, and it can be very effective.
Option 3: bigger tablets -- I'm not talking about larger screens (though I saw a 21-inch tablet at CES that was amazing), but about larger storage capacities. It may be that 128GB becomes the default enterprise capacity for professional Windows 8 tablets. The larger memory provides much more breathing room for data, though it comes at a cost -- the 128GB tablets can cost as much as a well-provisioned laptop.
So there you have it: one migration problem, three potential solutions. Which one do you think makes the most sense for your users? More importantly, did I miss something significant? Let's take it to the comments and see where the answers lie.