Virtual Office Featured Article
January 29, 2013Three Ways Your Laptop Always Has Internet
By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor
A friend of mine is a digital nomad. He works entirely from his laptop and doesn’t even have a physical office, instead working from coffee shops, airports and the houses of friends he is visiting.
Internet access is the lifeblood of my friend’s business activity, so during a recent trip throughout Southeast Asia the first thing he would do in each new country was visit a national wireless provider and determine how he would get mobile internet access in his new country.
While most of us are not quite as much a nomad as my friend, and we certainly don’t have to rediscover our mobile internet options every few weeks, many of us do work outside of the office enough that there is the question of how to secure constant internet access. Coffee shops and their Wi-Fi options only go so far due to security issues and the ever-present possibility of a downed Wi-Fi router.
Securing mobile internet for our devices is especially crucial for those of us who leverage unified communication such as Phone (News - Alert).com’s Communicator Softphone or other voice-over-IP solution.
Unless we’re working entirely from our smartphone or relying on the kindness of Wi-Fi strangers, to paraphrase Tennessee Williams, we’ll need a mobile connectivity solution.
There are three basic types of mobile connectivity that both the casual user and the hardcore digital nomad need to consider: Smartphone tethering, USB dongle, and mobile hotspot.
When the mobile “team” is just you, leveraging a smartphone’s tethering functionality often is the best solution. This option, which uses your smartphone as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, keeps the work bag light and doesn’t require an additional data plan, although it can drain the battery if the smartphone is not plugged in during use. It also sometimes is a tad slower than dedicated mobile connectivity solutions, and it isn’t good for sharing with a team because, well, nobody wants to leave their phone in a room so the VP of marketing can finish his PowerPoint.
The second option is the tried-and-true USB dongle we all see protruding from laptops like a digital caveman without his loincloth. The USB dongle is easy and standard, but often they require proprietary software, don’t share well with the procrastinating VP of marketing, and don’t work as well when it comes to devices that don’t have a USB port. Yes, iPad, we’re talking about you.
The third option, the best option if you can swing it, is the mobile hotspot. The mobile hotspot, that hockey puck-like device that is slowly coming to displace the USB dongle, let’s many users connect at once, can be left with coworkers when you leave a room, and doesn’t drain a smartphone’s battery. But the downsides include having to carry more gear in your bag and often times another data plan from your cellular provider.
So while most of us don’t have to rediscover our mobility options every couple weeks like my friend, we do have some choices to make.
First, decide how much data will be needed so it is understood if options such as smartphone tethering even make sense. Second, look for a cellular business or family plan so multiple devices can run on the same account. Third, look into 4G LTE (News - Alert) over 3G or HSPA+ since 4G is far better for mobile connectivity speeds. Finally, consider the advantages of prepaid versus postpaid if getting into a new cellular contract is a concern.
Then there’s the fifth question we might want to ask ourselves: Do we want to work outside of our cubicle? But that answer is probably Yes.
Edited by Carlos Olivera
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