In today’s modern world, there is a lot more to think about when planning how to set up a mobile office than just having a laptop, mobile phone and being able to “VPN in”. As we enter an age of mobility, it is important to have a strong grasp on what is required to be able to work on the road while maintaining productivity, security and reliability.
Getting the most from your mobile office experience requires you to prepare before you leave the office. It is vital to know that you have all the requirements on hand before you go and have used them all together and know how to connect them up. It is often a good idea to test out your equipment in the office before you depart as it is much quicker and easier to find assistance and any items that you may have missed. You wouldn’t get up and present your company progress to the board or pitch a new proposal to a prospect without planning and testing and the same needs to apply here.
When planning what equipment you will need for your mobile office you need to think about what you are hoping to achieve and where you will be to do it. Think about what equipment will be required and if any of it will be available at your destination, or do you need (or is it better) to carry it yourself. Do you need a printer, and if so, does it need to be a mobile one that can run from a battery or car charger? Will you need a projector? Do you need a box for carrying it in or will it all go in your laptop bag? Do you need some of it to work on whilst in transit or can some go in the boot / hold? A final point is if you are using equipment at your destination, do you have any required adapters to make their equipment fit with yours? I can’t count the number of times that I have been at the setup for a presentation to find that the presenter's laptop doesn’t have the correct connector to connect to the projector or the external audio.
If you are planning on being away from power points (electric ones, not presentations), do you have sufficient battery capacity? Mobiles can charge from laptops or from USB power banks, laptops can often have a second battery or you could look at getting a Lithium Ion car jump starter that will allow for laptop charging (make sure to check the specs of the charger and your laptop before purchasing). Take note that there are now restrictions for Lithium batteries in aeroplane cabins. Whilst on the power subject, if you are travelling overseas, check out what travel power adapters you will need, and if your destination is a place that runs on a different voltage, do you have a power supply that can cope with this?
Once you have your equipment planned out, the next area for planning is your connectivity. Generally, this is achieved by “tethering” your mobile phone and using its data package, but other options include: some laptops/tablets allow for an internal SIM and direct 3G/4G connection; you could use a 3G/4G dongle; or even use the internet from either a free hotspot like McDonalds or Starbucks, the client's site or your hotel. If you are travelling overseas, do you have global roaming on your data plan(s), or a local SIM, or will you buy one when you arrive?
After sorting out the connectivity to the internet, your next step is to look at how you can access your data securely (especially if you are using free Wi-Fi). If you use online services such as Office365, Azure or AWS, then you will already be used to accessing them remotely and securely and being mobile should have no or very little difference, but for line of business apps, you will need either a remote desktop solution like Citrix or Parallels, or an old-fashioned VPN. For any of these, test them out before you go.
If you are carrying any data with you, such as on your laptop/tablet or a USB stick, make sure that it is encrypted. Just think if your data is stolen from a lost USB drive left in a taxi and published on the internet or to your competitors, what would the cost be? This is not just lost data, but possibly lost revenue, opportunities or even market confidence. If you are carrying data, plan for backups. This covers both for data that you create as well as any that you need to present. Have a spare encrypted USB stick that goes in your case/overnight bag rather than with your laptop and update it as you finish any local content creation.
The last area is one that most people don’t really think about, but it is worth planning where you will be having your mobile office. If you are doing confidential work, you will need somewhere with privacy. The free Wi-Fi at Macca’s may sound good, but may not work from a security point of view, or even that the crowd of people there may get in your way or distract you. A lot of the hotels have a business room, but these may either have a cost or require booking to make sure you can use them. If you have a lot of work to do, you will also need a good chair and a good surface for holding your equipment such as a desk or table. Think about backup or alternative locations in case something happens to your planned location (what happens if the Hotels internet is down and you had planned on using it to connect out).
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