Mobile Computing 101
Being away from the office doesn't mean you can't have a productive day. Find out how mobile technology can help.
At times you probably feel like staying holed up in your office, enjoying the heat or air conditioning and drinking mint tea while checking e-mails. Unfortunately those days never come since you have clients to meet, employees to hire, events to attend, an accountant to see and maybe a family to care for.
How can you possibly get everything done while spending so much time out of the office? By leveraging and investing in the power of mobile technology.
A smart mobile technology strategy enables you to have your office with you, wherever you are. If you're in a client's office, you'll never have to exclaim, "I left the file in my office." If you find yourself five states away you won't have to kick yourself for not bringing a presentation with you. When someone calls or faxes your office, the voice mail and fax are easily reachable even if you're not physically in the office.
The device you use to power your mobile office is critical. Almost every small business uses a notebook computer, which may be all you want or need. Many are also using smart phones, which blend the functionality of a cell phone, e-mail access and web browser into one device.
To complete your mobile technology solution you'll need connectivity to the internet, which you can do in several ways.
- Wi-Fi--If you're often in a corporate office, at a business center or at coffee shops and other eateries catering to business people, this is a good option. Wi-Fi has a range of about 300 feet.
- Wireless broadband--This enables your mobile device to connect to the internet using the high-speed network of a wireless carrier. With wireless broadband you're not limited to a range of 300 feet, nor do you have to hunt for a wireless hot spot as with Wi-Fi. Instead, you can be in a taxi, on a train (above ground) or in most places in the U.S. and be connected to the internet. The cost is about $60 per month.
- Bluetooth--If your cell phone is Bluetooth-enabled, you can wirelessly connect your Bluetooth-enabled mobile device to your cell phone and access the internet. If your cell phone plan doesn't have unlimited minutes, you'll pay hefty charges once you exceed your allocated minutes per month.
Security and remote access to your office files are two other important aspects of a mobile technology solution.
The data on your mobile device should be password-protected and encrypted to prevent casual thieves from accessing your data. But if your password is guessed or otherwise compromised your data isn't safe. Encrypting your data will ensure that it's indecipherable to unauthorized users.
As you transmit data, make sure that the connection between your device and the wireless point is secure. If you're using Wi-Fi to connect to an airline reservation system, you don't want hackers capturing your information as it travels. Instead, make sure your connection is encrypted by only accessing websites or databases that encrypt the information transmitted between you and them.
Remote Access to Your Office
Accessing your files remotely is one of the biggest advantages of mobile computing.
- Remote control of your individual PC--Many of the popular PC remote control programs enable not only PC-to-PC remote control, but also to a mobile device, such as a smart phone to PC. Before you leave for vacation, download a remote control program to your PC and set up your smart phone or notebook computer to access your office PC via the internet.
- VPN--A VPN ensures that you can access the files on your office's computer securely. Imagine that you're driving through a tunnel on a 10-lane highway. Everyone else is using the first nine lanes and traveling in the open. You, however, are traveling in lane 10. This is how VPN works; you use the public internet, but a secure tunnel is set up for your data to travel through to your corporate network.
Another thing to consider for an optimal mobile computing experience is e-mail. You can set up your e-mail so that you can access it directly from your provider. Or if you have an e-mail server in the office, you can configure your mobile device to work with your e-mail server so that you have access to your e-mail on your mobile device and also in your office.
Ramon Ray is Entrepreneur.com's "Tech Basics" columnist and editor of Smallbiztechnology.com. He's the author of Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses and currently serves on the board of directors and the technology committee for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.