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Portable Device Management (PDM) Buyer's Guide

ChargeCabinet16Choosing the Right PDM Product Charge and Store Tablets, Chromebooks and other USB-charged Devices

The growing use of Chromebooks, tablets and other portable devices has opened a new world of opportunities for schools, companies and organizations. While 21st century classrooms and boardrooms reap the many benefits of digital technology, new challenges arise for managers, administrators and teachers tasked with how to safely and efficiently deploy these valuable assets.

This Buyer's Guide explores Portable Device Management (PDM) for organizations that use Chromebooks or tablets and other devices for training, education, commerce, etc. We'll discuss why PDM is important, what to consider when choosing products, and what types of products are available in this expanding category.

What Is Portable Device Management (PDM)?

Portable Device Management refers to products specifically designed to help manage the deployment of multiple portable devices such as Chromebooks, iPads, Android tablets, e-Readers, etc. Although Portable Device Management often refers to Chromebooks or tablets in a classroom environment, PDM applies to any setting where such devices are used and can include smartphones or other USB-charged devices.

Problems Solved by PDM Products

In education, deployment of printed textbooks and training materials is fairly straightforward. Books and manuals can be stored just about anywhere. Charging and syncing is not a concern, and new printings handle revisions. Best of all, few people are tempted to steal or tamper with a history book. Chromebook or tablet deployment requires a different way of thinking. Supplying Chromebooks or tablets for 30 to 40 students to streamline education or numerous employees to increase productivity is a significant investment. Plus, Chromebooks or tablets are vulnerable to theft and hacking. Unlike textbooks or manuals, Chromebooks or tablets are useless if the batteries are not charged. These requirements are easy to handle for one or two devices, but even simple tasks like charging Chromebooks or tablets become a real headache when you've got dozens or hundreds of devices to manage. Therefore, three fundamental challenges need to be addressed for any Chromebook or tablet deployment strategy: safe storage, efficient charging, and syncing if required.

Charge and Sync Station 16How Do PDM Products Work?

PDM devices help solve one or a combination of the three basic requirements for Chromebook or tablet deployment. They may provide storage capability in the form of tablet stands or a cabinet. They may also allow for the charging and/or syncing of multiple devices at a time. For charging, a PDM device adds storage and security along with a single charging device. For synchronization, it allows multiple devices to synchronize as one process rather than one by one. Keep in mind that we are referring to wired synchronization through a USB connection to a computer. Wireless synchronization does not require this kind of hardware.

Charging and Syncing

PDM devices plug into standard US power outlets and use either USB ports or internal power outlets to charge/sync multiple tablets or other USB-charged devices. Products can range from simple charge-only stations to highly secure charge/sync cabinets.

1. Charge-only power outlets - This category applies to products that provide storage and/or organization of the devices. For example, there are cabinets that are designed to hold and charge large numbers of Chromebooks and other small laptops. Separate AC power outlets are provided within the station. The adapters that came with the device purchase is used to charge the devices. This allows users to mix and match and charge as many different devices as the total number of devices the cabinet was designed to hold.

2. Charge-only USB - These devices typically work the same as the standard chargers included with your ChromeBook, iPad or other tablet but include multiple USB ports to charge the device using one power outlet. In order to provide enough amps per port to adequately charge power-hungry electronics like iPads, these chargers have more power than standard multiport USB chargers and hubs.

3. Charge-Sync USB - Like charge-only USB products, Charge-Sync USB products allow you to charge multiple tablets or other USB-charged devices simultaneously. However, they can also connect to a PC or Mac through a USB port for synchronization with iTunes or some other computer application. Charge-Sync USB devices act both as USB hubs and charging stations. Like a USB hub, the device is only responsible for allowing communication between the connected tablets and the computer. The computer and synchronization software handles all synchronization and management. Since the amount of charging power is limited when the device is acting as a hub for communication, these products are typically either in charging mode or synchronization mode, depending on what the user is trying to do. Changing modes is sometimes triggered using a physical switch. Other times, the device will change to sync mode automatically when it detects a USB connection with a computer.

What Type of PDM Products Are Available?

PDM products come in various sizes and shapes and are either stationary or portable. Stationary PDM includes cabinets, desktop units, and wall-mounted units. Portable PDM products include carts, rolling suitcases, and charging "bricks" or stations that are small enough and light enough to travel from room to room.

Charge and Guard Secure Charge/Sync Cabinet 16Stationary PDM Charge/Sync Cabinets

A good choice for a high capacity deployment where security is a concern, PDM cabinets are typically lockable cabinets capable of charging, syncing and storing multiple tablets at a time. Almost all of these cabinets are lockable, but some are more secure than others. For example, some are made with plastic components while others are constructed with aluminum and steel. Some cabinets also have anchor loops so that the cabinets can be chained to a secure structure, and others can be wall mounted to save space in crowded classrooms. There are even PDM cabinets that can be connected together or "daisy chained" to double or triple the tablet capacity. Prices depend on features and whether the cabinet is Charge-only USB, Charge-Sync USB, or uses Charge-only power outlets.

Stationary-to-Portable PDM Cabinets

Some PDM cabinets can function as stationary and portable units with adaptor kits that can be purchased separately. These models allow you to stack the cabinets as the number of portable devices grow and install handles and wheels for portability.

Portable PDM Stations

ChargeCabinet16PDM stations can be Charge-only or Charge/Sync. These units are much more compact than cabinets and provide USB ports for charging/syncing and sometimes include tablet racks to hold the devices. Like cabinets, some charge/sync stations can be "daisy chained" to allow more devices to be synced on a single USB connection.

Cable Management

One of the most frustrating aspects of PDM management is cable confusion, or not knowing which cable is connected to which device. Make sure the PDM you purchase includes a cable management system or purchase pre-labeled USB snake cables that allow you to connect multiple devices to any multi-port USB charge sync station, cabinet, or cart with a single cable.

What PDM is Right For Me?

Chromebooks, MacBooks and e-readers. While a PDM cabinet with USB ports may be needed to accommodate iPads and Android tablets. If you simply need to charge and safely store the devices, consider purchasing a charge-only lockable storage cabinet. If you purchase a cabinet, make sure it is constructed of metal and does not have plastic parts that can be entry ways for thieves. If you plan on mixing and matching devices (e.g., a combination of Chromebooks, MacBooks, etc.), makes sure the cabinet includes Active Smart Charging that works across platforms or a universal AC power design that allows you to mix and match devices.

Before you make a final decision, ask the following questions:

  • Do you need to mix and match devices? As an example a Bring-Your-Own-Device program.
  • How many Chromebooks or tablets does it charge at a time?
  • Will you need to move your Chromebooks or tablets on a regular basis?
  • How high is the risk of theft?
  • Do you need the device for charging or both charging and syncing?
  • Is there a risk of overheating?
  • Does it accommodate Chromebooks or large tablet sizes and protective cases?
  • Does it detect the type of connected device and provide the right charging specification?
  • Is the PDM product designed to work with all of your devices including iOS, Android or something else?
  • Will it supply enough power to each USB port to charge/sync quickly?

  • 1. How many devices will you deploy at a time?
    The number of Chromebooks or tablets your organization deploys at a time should align with the number of power outlets or USB ports on the PDM unit and the power required for rapid charging.

    2. Does it have enough power?
    Make sure the unit has enough power and supplies enough amps to each power outlet or USB port. Recent tablets use either a 2.1 amp or 2.4-amp charger, depending on the model, so this is a good standard to follow. Keep in mind that Chromebook or tablet charging capabilities may expand so purchasing a larger unit with higher power ratings may be a wise investment.

    3. Does it include Universal AC Outlets or Smart Charging?
    Universal AC outlets will allow you to mix and match the devices you wish to charge. In addition tablet models vary and different brands use different specifications for charging. Make sure the PDM device includes Active Smart Charging that detects the type of device that is connected and provides the right specification intelligently.

    4. Does room temperature vary?
    Even small amounts of power generate heat. If the room temperature varies or rises in hotter months, consider an unenclosed unit if theft is not an issue. If theft is a concern, make sure the enclosed cabinet includes integrated cooling or numerous ventilation shots to prevent overheating.

    5. Will the Chromebooks or tablets have protective cases?
    Whether you purchase a stationary cabinet or portable unit, make sure Chromebooks or tablets with protective cases are accommodated. Cabinet compartments should also be removable to accommodate growing screen sizes and cases.

    6. Does it include Cable Management
    If purchasing a cabinet, make sure it includes a well-designed cable management system so that power cables or USB cables are not strained or tangled.

    7. What types of devices will your organization deploy?
    While you may use iPads now, there's no guarantee that the platform will charge your future devices as efficiently down the road. PDM products should support iOS, Android other tablets as well as other USB-charged devices like smartphones.

    Aleratec PDM Solutions

    Deploying tablets in your school, company, or organization is a giant step forward. Aleratec offers the following PDM products designed to make tablet deployment easier and more efficient.

  • ChargeCabinet16 - 16 Chromebook and Mini-Laptop Charging Storage Cabinet - Part 400108
  • Charge and Guard Secure Charge/Sync Cabinet 16 - Part 400104
  • Charge and Sync Station 16 - Part 400103
  • Wall Mount for ChargeCabinet16 - Part 400109
  • Cart Conversion Kit for ChargeCabinet16 - Part 400110
  • Wall Mount for Charge and Guard Secure Charge/Sync Cabinet 16 - Part 400107
  • 5-Device Snake Cable - Lightning to USB - Part 390122
  • 4-Device Snake Cable - Lightning to USB - Part 390121
  • 5-Device Snake Cable - Micro USB to USB - Part 390124
  • 4-Device Snake Cable - Micro USB to USB - Part 390123

  • Check the charts below to find the Aleratec Product that meets your needs.

    AC Charging for Chromebooks

    ChargeCabinet16 for Chromebooks

    USB Charge and Sync for Tablets

    Charge and Guard Secure Charge/Sync Cabinet 16 Charge and Sync Station 16 Image Map
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