All too often, the cries for mobility have come from vendors trying to sell you devices and add-on software. But in today's field sales and support \n\nenvironments, the business drivers to support road warriors are crystal clear. Many of your sales reps work from their home office. And all of your field \n\nforce is supposed to be at client sites, not sitting at their desks in headquarters.The good news is that the technology for on-the-road CRM is really here, mature even if not perfect. And the devices that you need to run CRM on \n\nare the devices that most of your field force already has: laptops, 3G\/4G cards, and a RIM or iPhone device. Remote access to CRM is available \n\nalmost everywhere it's needed worldwide.[ For timely data center news and expert advice on data center strategy, see CIO.com's Data Center Drilldown section. ]Of course, the big debate in CRM has been on-premises vs in the cloud. For companies with highly distributed offices (such as branches, franchises, \n\nor satellite offices), using Citrix or other remote-desktop solutions can be made to work. But when users are on the road, the latency problems of on \n\npremises CRM become insurmountable. Of course, low-end SFA tools can be made to run locally on the users laptop. But provisioning and replication \n\nof dozens or hundreds of road-warrior databases is problematic at best. And the situation for mobile devices is basically hopeless.The SaaS model of CRM avoids all of these problems and makes the user experience on the road absolutely on par with what the user would get at \n\nheadquarters. Essentially every vendor works just fine with a 3G\/4G card and a laptop, and there is no software to provision or support. All of the \n\nsystem customizations are available from the remote machine, and security is maintained (particularly if your admins remember to turn on https mode for \n\nthe CRM system).Things get a little dicier when the users go off-network. Salesforce.com and Microsoft (among others) offer offline mode for their CRM systems, \n\nallowing users to cache records and access\/edit them without a network connection. Perfect for airlines and buildings where network access just cant \n\nhappen. Replication on reconnect is straightforward, typically following a "last update time wins" pattern. However, offline mode typically will not \n\nsupport all of your system customizations, and some advanced features will not be available at all without network connectivity. Further, the unavailability \n\nof documents or records from interfaced-systems (such as accounting or inventory) limits the utility of offline mode to fairly simple record updates.For all remote and on-the-road staff using laptops for CRM, make sure they have solid ILP\/DLP software installed on their machines. You don't want your prospect and customer records pulled out of your system \n\n\u2014 whether by competitors or employees.A better approach is accessing the SaaS CRM system from mobile devices. Due to screen real estate and browser-cookie issues, accessing the \n\nCRM from a smartphone browser is ridiculous. Instead, the leading vendors have native smartphone-UI implementations of their CRM clients that are \n\nattractive and intuitive. Watch out for the following, though:\u2022 Support for devices is relatively narrow. BlackBerry and Apple devices probably have support from the most vendors.\u2022 Screen size matters more than for most smartphone apps.\u2022 Memory constraints are a big issue. Typically you'll need at least 10MB of spare RAM, and much more than that for large CRM \n\ndatabases.\u2022 If you have a lot of leads, contacts, appointments, and notes, pulling the data down can take a long time. In some device\/CRM combinations, \n\nyou can hold only 2000 records at a time, causing annoying delays if you need to access something that's not cached on the local device. This is an area \n\nwhere the iPhone seems to have a significant advantage, thanks to its available memory.\u2022 Even though there's data caching on the smartphone, the CRM functionality depends upon network connectivity. If your field workers are in \n\nsecure facilities or buildings with no 3G\/4G access, the functionality available offline will be very limited.\u2022 Some of your system's customizations and extensions are not likely to be available in the Smartphone UI. Of course, none of your external \n\nintegrations will be available, and some of your documents may be difficult to get to (and probably impossible to read).\u2022 Reports, dashboards, and fancy graphics may be available, but will be essentially unusable in the mobile version. \u2022 If your mobile device doesn't have an unlimited data plan, you'll probably need to upgrade to that level. \u2022 There may be more than one version of mobile apps for your CRM package. This is an area where you really get what you pay for: you'll \n\nalmost inevitably need the most expensive version.Will the iPad become the next mobile CRM client? It's a nice device with \n\nenough screen real estate and horsepower \u2014 but I don't see it as being versatile enough to be the sales rep's or field tech support's only \n\ncomputer. That said, stranger things have happened in this industry.David Taber is the author of the new Prentice Hall book, "Salesforce.com Secrets of Success" and is the CEO of SalesLogistix, a certified \n\nSalesforce.com consultancy focused on business process improvement through use of CRM systems. SalesLogistix clients are in North America, \n\nEurope, Israel, and India, and David has over 25 years experience in high tech, including 10 years at the VP level or above.Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline.