I received a call the other day from the mother of a friend who wanted my advice. Here’s the situation –

She helps run a food bank that’s under the wing of a larger charitable organization funded by her church. It’s a fairly large operation. Currently, the food bank has two older computers that were donated, but those PCs are on their last legs.

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The good news is that the food bank has received $1000 to upgrade their technology. It’s very important to her to get the most bang for her buck. She has a tablet at home, that she sometimes even brings in to use at the food bank. She wondered if a tablet or a laptop would be the best purchase for her organization.

Let’s take a look at what this organization needs their tech to do. Most of the work is data entry via a browser into a web-based program used by the church. Volunteers need to list what food that is donated, the food that is distributed, and take information about the clients that receive the assistance.

According to my friend, that’s all they use the PCs for besides e-mail. Currently, they are tied to two desktops that volunteers have to take turns using.

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This is a great example of a situation where a tablet is a better solution that a desktop or a laptop. As long as the volunteers are able to access the program they need using the browser on the tablet, the tablet makes a lot more sense. (She had successfully used the necessary program with the browser on her tablet before)

Of course, the food bank would need to have wireless so the tablets can access the Internet. The parent charity group is transitioning to being paperless, so printing won’t be an issue. Otherwise, you’d need to have a wireless printer available to use with a printing app.

Because the tablets are less expensive than a PC (you can get a very good tablet for under $200), it’s possible to buy four tablets instead of one or two PCs, thereby doubling the number of devices available for inputting inventory and helping clients.  Tablets are also portable, which is very handy when you need to tally up a big donation of food sitting on a loading dock.

Of course, I suggested that she try out a tablet first, before committing to buying multiple tablets.  She may find that some volunteers have issues typing with the onscreen keyboard, so a keyboard case may be necessary for them.

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In this day and age where many people use their desktop or laptop strictly for browsing the Internet, checking e-mail or playing games online, there’s really no need for many people to pay for a lot of PC computing power they’re never going to use. The same holds true for many businesses.

Have any of you made the transition from laptop and desktop to a tablet? What’s your experience been like? Any advice? Let us know in the comments.

~ Cynthia