For many businesspeople today, working from the road is a snap, as long as they have fast connectivity and a powerful smartphone or tablet. The latest mobile devices are loaded with advanced apps and high-definition megapixel cameras, so you can leave your cameras and scanners at home. Throw in a Bluetooth keyboard, and you’re set for most any work adventure.
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Yet for people who are on the road more often than not, there are a few more gadgets to bring along that save time and allow them to efficiently review and produce large documents, stay connected and hold meetings to their heart’s content — without needing to find a business center at the hotel or airport.
Stay connected anywhere Perhaps the most critical “tools” for any roadie are fast pipes. There’s nothing more frustrating than searching for an available Wi-Fi service and logging in, only to find the slow network you’re on takes minutes to send an important email or won’t let you stream that video you need to see.
To solve this problem, consider purchasing a portable “MiFi” device, such as the Sprint Mobile Hotspot. This handy, compact unit securely connects up to five Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, smartphones or tablets to the Sprint network without you having to fumble with a password, deal with annoying ads or buy a cup of coffee you don’t want. (The nationwide Sprint Network reaches over 283 million people; coverage is not available everywhere.)
“The MiFi device is indispensable, especially for someone who travels on a weekly basis,” says Bill Rom, managing partner at 151 Advisors. “I use MiFi capability with my smartphone, which allows me to connect to Wi-Fi while working remotely.”
Traveling internationally brings up particular challenges with additional connectivity, which Cognizant Technology Solutions analyst Kevin Benedict addresses by staying in major hotel chains such as Hilton and Marriott whenever possible.
“That way, I know what I am getting,” he explains. Benedict also purchases additional data plans (275 MB) for his devices so he can upload videos for work and use map apps when driving in unfamiliar places. He’s also discovered that Google Hangouts are a viable option for video-conferencing. “It’s free for individuals and the quality is good, even overseas,” he says.
Carry lightweight tech that lasts The next decision is which devices to bring — and one is rarely enough for digital road warriors. David Hassell, CEO of 15Five, brings a lightweight laptop with a 15-inch screen and a solid-state (SSD) hard drive “for speed,” an small tablet for reading and a smartphone.
Bringing multiple devices is also a battery-saving strategy, says Benedict. He doesn’t bring extra batteries when he travels but instead uses his tablet on long flights so that upon landing, his fully charged phone is ready to go.
Cases with built-in battery power or solar chargers are another option, says Rom. “They are particularly useful when traveling, allowing you to stay connected 24/7 while working from airports, hotel lobbies or other locations that don’t often provide easy access to power.”
Hassell, who apparently has spent more than a few hours of his life waiting to board a plane, leaves nothing to chance. He brings external batteries and a portable power strip when he travels. “I always have an outlet in an airport, and some to share!” he says. Hassell also brings extra charger cables, monitor connectors and even audio connectors for plugging his devices and laptop into speakers in conference rooms.
Load up on apps With more and more power and functionality packed into devices — eliminating the need for the average roadie to carry much else than a smartphone and a tablet or laptop — apps are a critical part of the mobile toolset. Cloud storage services such as Box and Carbonite make bringing files with you a snap.
The number of mobile apps for collaboration is vast, but a few popular ones include Google Apps, YouTube (for posting and sharing videos of presentations or product demos), Microsoft SharePoint (using the mobile app), Basecamp and Do (from Salesforce). And then there are apps like Gas Cubby for tracking mileage and vehicle maintenance, and others, like Things, Actsoft and Todoist, for managing tasks. Hassell likes SignNow for managing paperless documents, contracts and e-signatures. Docusign Ink is another business app for the same purpose.
Hit the road in comfort and style Finally, you’ll also need a cool and comfortable bag to stow all your devices and a few indispensable personal items: healthy snacks, hand sanitizer, over-the-counter pain relievers, tissues, lip balm, eye drops for long flights, and the little things that keep you looking sharp for clients.
"A Tide stick for that inevitable quick-bite stain on the drive into a meeting goes in my bag," says Clayton Howes, manager of patient retention at Coram Healthcare.