5 great data apps to run your business on the move

Manage your data usage and keep costs down with our handy apps and top tips for the mobile worker...

The concept of the mobile office may only be a few years old, but it’s gained a firm hold in the world of small business remarkably quickly. And you’re just as likely to see entrepreneurs sat on the train beavering away on an Apple iPad or Microsoft Surface these days as tapping away on a laptop.

That’s partly down to devices constantly getting smaller, faster and less power-hungry, but more importantly it’s about data.

Data is the life-blood of today’s mobile industry, and an essential part of any mobile business.

And that’s a good thing, because it means there’s a huge array of apps out there designed to help you meet your business’ data needs, manage your usage and keep your costs down.

Let’s take a look at some of the best:

Built-in tools: Before you think about downloading any app, check out your device’s built-in data monitoring utility, which you’ll find in Settings.

On Android and iOS, you can see up-to-the-second data usage figures for all your apps, and can block them individually to stop them soaking up your precious data.

Windows Phone has nothing like as many third-party data usage apps as Android and iOS, but it arguably doesn’t need them, as the built-in Data Sense offers similar features but can also compress web pages and block ads, and can be controlled via a Live Time on the homescreen.

My Data Manager (Android, iOS): Considering it’s free, My Data Manager is a great alternative to built-in data usage trackers. You can specify your data limit and set alarms to warn you when you’re approaching it, and see how much data individual apps and services are using, and when.

But it offers a wider range of customisation options, and wraps it all up in a user-friendly interface that’s far easier to use.

Data Monitor (Android, iOS): Another free tool, Data Monitor tracks your mobile and Wi-Fi data usage, offering the usual options to set limits and alarms.

Usefully, it also lets you set daily limits, which will be handy if you’re travelling abroad for business. It also resets automatically at the end of each data cycle, though you can override this and do it manually too.

Onavo Extend (Android, iOS): Like the other tools here, Onavo Extend gives you information on which apps and services are chewing through the most data every month, though not in quite as much detail as the apps mentioned above.

However, it also helps you reduce data usage by compressing texts and images in the background and only loading images on web pages when you reach that part of the page on screen.

Data Usage Pro (iOS): If you are willing to spend a little money – and at £1.49 it really is a little – Data Usage Pro gives you the standard tools you get with free apps, but plenty more besides.

It can predict when you’re likely to go over your data limit based on your current usage, set daily limits, get up-to-the minute info on your data usage through a homescreen widget, and even express your usage through theme colours to give you a visual cue the moment you’re using more data than you should.

Useful tips to keep data use in check

Get the right data plan. If you regularly hit your monthly data limit long before the month is out, consider upgrading your package to one offering more data in the first place. It’ll almost certainly work out cheaper than buying extra data on top of your existing package.

Use Wi-Fi where you can. If you’re running your business from home, why use up your precious mobile data allowance when your home internet connection is within range and probably gives you far more data to play with every month. Similarly, tap into the free Wi-Fi offered by hotels, restaurants and coffee shops and transport networks where you can.

Restrict background data use. Today’s phones and tablets are wonderfully versatile, but so much of what they do is set up by default to sync or update via the web. Many mobile devices have a battery saver mode that switches a lot of this background chatter off, and even if not you can do the job yourself manually.

Set up alerts and limits. Both iOS and Android have tools that let you input your mobile data limit, and a point at which it alerts you that you’re getting near that limit. Note that such systems work purely with the details you enter, and won’t prevent you from going over your limit if those details are wrong.

This article was produced in partnership with O2 Business. To be inspired or read more about working anywhere, working smarter, marketing, and for tech advice go to businessblog.o2.co.uk

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