How to Maximize Your Work Productivity on the Road

Heading on a business trip? To get work done, you're going to need more than your laptop, smartphone and tablet. Here's what else you need to bring to be as productive as possible.

By Paul Mah
Wed, June 19, 2013

CIO — A new role that requires traveling takes some getting used to, especially if you rarely leave the office. It suddenly becomes critical to squeeze in that bit of extra work while waiting for an airport transfer, relaxing at the hotel in the evenings, shuffling between meetings or even when waiting for clients to show up for those meetings.

With this in mind, here are several pointers to help maximize your productivity when traveling.

Internet Access On the Go: Watch Connections, Battery Life

In this age of Web services and access to instant information, the trickiest bit of a business trip is often getting Internet connectivity at unfamiliar or remote locations. While Wi-Fi hotspot access is generally great, it can sometimes be flaky due to congestion or misbehaving wireless access points in public locations.

When faced with an errant Wi-Fi hotspot, a good guideline is to devote no more than 10 minutes and one system restart to resolving the problem. Beyond that, changing venues or switching to a mobile hostpot is a more judicious use of time.

More: Hot Spot Dangers: Avoiding Wi-Fi Security Pitfalls

That said, mobile 3G or 4G mobile connectivity can offer comparable or even better Internet access speed than hotspots, depending on country and location. If anything, they also make a good fallback when hotspots can't be found and can be used with a local prepaid data SIM card to avoid exorbitant mobile charges when traveling out of the country.

Smart Wi-Fi

A USB mobile dongle or Mi-Fi router is typically used with prepaid data SIM cards, though users not keen to buy or pack additional gear can use the hotspot feature found in modern smartphones. Activating that feature does drain your smartphones quickly, though, so it may make sense to get a portable battery such as the compact Innergie PocketCell Duo. Another alternative: Use a tablet as a mobile hotspot with its screen switched off. Since tablets typically have larger battery capacity, this should yield several more hours of usage.

Whether using a mobile dongle, MiFi router or smartphone, remember that laptops can consume data at a prodigious rate. Be sure to periodically check that the Windows operating system or your apps are not attempting to perform large updates that can quickly exceed applicable data caps.

Back at the Hotel: DIY Wireless

Depending on the hotel, Internet may be delivered to rooms using a wired Ethernet port or Wi-Fi. Wireless offers convenience for laptop users, especially since many new Ultrabooks no longer come with an Ethernet port. Whether wired or wireless, a software utility such as Connectify Hotspot Lite can create a separate Wi-Fi network to deliver Internet access to mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

A travel router such as the Pepwave Surf On-The-Go offers another possible approach. This eliminates the need to restart Connectify each time you come back from a meeting, for example, and it's not susceptible to any application or operating system-related problems.

Case Study: NY Hotel Boosts Wi-Fi with Wall-Mounted Switches

Whatever your choice, taking a few minutes to set up a personal wireless connection can help you save a substantial amount on inflated roaming charges.

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