Cubicles? Who needs a cube when the big, wide open world is your office? Marissa Mayer notwithstanding, it is clear that more companies have embraced telecommuting and remote offices over recent years. The time was ripe for it: Enterprise adoption of tablets and ultrabooks has been growing, more public venues are turning mobile-friendly, and more companies are looking to reduce their overhead. It’s like the perfect storm coming together to give the portable office traction like never before.
While it can be an adjustment to go from a standard desk to changing environments, there are a few things that can help ease the transition and keep you working optimally while on the go.
Take along a power strip: Sure, you could locate a fantastic place to settle in with a coffee and get some work done, but that doesn’t mean you can. After all, a building can only have so many power outlets, and if it’s busy that day, you could be barred from juicing up your portables. Carry a power strip with you, though, and you may be able to convince the guy at the next table to share outlets. Quirky’s six-socket Pivot Power even articulates, to let you plug in virtually anything you want, practically anywhere. ($29.99 at Quirky) This is a must if you tend to haul a lot of gear that requires electricity. If your load is light, however, the company also came out with a mini version with two sockets and two USB jacks. ($24.95 at Quirky)
Head off accidental spillage before it happens: Speaking of coffee — the worst thing can happen, even when you have the best of intentions. I’m talking about that obligatory cuppa you buy to secure your spot in the cafe. But the last thing you want is beverages within spilling distance of your devices. Get a muffin instead, or a bottle of water (with a twist-on cap). If not, then at least consider something like the Drinklip ($19.99). There are a lot of similar products out there, but we like this one because it has an actual cup that can hold a drink away from your laptop or corral paperclips, USB drives or other little knickknacks.
Wi-Fi? You don’t need no stinkin’ Wi-Fi: More venues than ever are offering free Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, the risks are more widespread too, as mobile hackers love to prey on public networks. Why take the chance when you can bring your own hotspot with you instead? If the travel is crucial to your work, you might even get your company to spring for it. Thanks to LTE, that portable hotspot — such as the Jetpack MiFi 4620LE from Verizon Wireless — could have you blazing along for a retail price of just $50 (on contract).
Lock up that laptop: Eventually you’re going to need to get up from that table. Sure, if you’re going to the public bathroom, the best security is to take your stuff with you, but if you’re just going for a napkin or a glass of water, that’s not always feasible or practical — especially if you’ve got a laptop and a slew of files. That’s when a physical lock like the Targus Ultra Max ($49.99) comes in handy. It takes no time for someone to grab your computer and run, but if it’s tethered (and you’re only up for a moment), the likelihood of a thief taking your gear gets radically reduced. Just remember to tie it down to an immovable base or furniture.
When you take expensive equipment out into the wild, there’s always a chance that it could take damaged or stolen. If you’re out and about often, you may want to extra-prepared for the worst by taking a few steps beforehand:
- Don’t store passwords on your laptop or gadgets. If your device gets stolen, you don’t want thieves getting into your personal accounts.
- Back up your data. Use an external hard drive or a cloud storage solution to stash that data. There are so many ways to do this now, including Dropbox, Mozy, SugarSync and Amazon Cloud Drive, just to name a few.
- Install tracking software. While Mac users can rely on Find My Mac to locate a missing laptop, there are third-party solutions that can up the ante. Hidden from Flipcode ($15 per year, Mac), Absolute Software’s LoJack for Laptops ($39.99 per year, Mac/PC), GadgetTrak from ActiveTrak ($19.95 per year, Mac/PC) and many others can also offer some peace of mind. Features vary, from snapping covert pictures of the person using the computer to taking screenshots of what the culprit does with the terminal, as well as remote wipe, lock and location features. Many also offer mobile device protection too, if you’re just working off your smartphone or tablet.
Do you work on the go? Tell us what your best tips are for wrangling your mobile office.