The way of the modern world is always changing and evolving, and technology savvy folk must mold themselves along with it if they want to stay on top of things. The Internet has made previously difficult tasks almost too convenient, like accessing maps from anywhere or obtaining contact information on the fly. Jobs have progressed to fit the needs of technology -- or vice versa -- by allowing people to work from their personal computers. Since we're no longer tied to cumbersome desktops and can take a laptop virtually anywhere, the workplace has transformed from the typical office to anywhere the employee might find him or herself. Here are 12 essential tools to working on-the-go.
Having a laptop seems like the most obvious and essential tool to having an efficient mobile work station. A laptop can be designated for business trips and can act as a virtual copy of your home computer. Having a laptop enables the worker to complete two of the most necessary tasks without any hassle: new work can be produced with ease, and innumerably more digital files will fit on the computer than paper would into a cumbersome briefcase. Additionally, there are an infinite variety of excellent laptop computers on the market, and they can be customized to fit the needs of any work field at an affordable price.
What if your laptop malfunctions or gets dropped during a trip? Online data backup sites can store all your files online for a monthly fee, ensuring that your information is safe from any computer related accidents. Once uploaded, your files can be accessed from virtually any computer using a login name and password. Besides serving as a safety net, these sites are also used to easily share large or numerous files between large groups of employees. It can also be helpful for an individual or company working with many computers which require the same information.
If your job does require the use of these sites, or you choose to for personal data backup, a wireless connection is absolutely necessary. Carrying ethernet cables on a vacation or business trip can be annoying -- not only do they take up room, but they can break, get lost, and are pretty ugly. Most hotels have a wireless connection available which, if you're lucky, is free. For traveling on the road, it may be useful to get a wireless card or 'tether'. For a monthly fee, most new phones can be utilized to act as an internet modem after when plugged into the laptop -- bringing the internet to almost anywhere on the road. Pre-paid and pay-as-you-go services are also available.
If you forget to upload a file onto your backup site or need to pull up information from your home computer while at a client's work space, having remote access to your home computer can be very useful. There are websites that offer complete access and control of your home computer from anywhere -- all you need is a wireless connection.
The next step is obtaining all the peripherals one needs to be comfortable working on the move. For those who hate the PC trackball, a wireless mouse can be found in various sizes and for pretty cheap. Some are smaller than most phones, which is a great alternative to the touch pad without the bulk. Photographers may need small printers, while a lawyer could require a portable fax machine. Every employee's needs are different, but there are an endless variety of customized tools to accommodate any field of work.
Having a voice recorder is essential for the mobile journalist, but this tool can be useful to almost anyone. Taking notes on the road can help you remember ideas, changes on a project, dates, etc -- it's not just for interviews! A voice recorder can be cheap, small, and easy to use; sometimes the best thoughts pop up while driving a car or during another time when using a pen just isn't an option.
Google Docs is a free and easy way to store and share text documents and spreadsheets, and can even upload any document from your home computer. The most usefulness, however, lies in its ability to make documents available for live editing. A document shared amongst two or more people can be updated and saved online while both people view the document and get to watch the changes being made in real time. Documents can be saved, exported, uploaded, published to the web, and have numerous tools to help get each one perfected and ready for viewing. Spell check, word count, formatting, and other features are all available with Google Docs -- for free! What previously cost hundreds in Office and Word is now available at no cost at all.
For the freelancer, checks can come sporadically and often after a needlessly long wait for the slow postal service to deliver it. If a check is delivered while the employee is traveling, he or she must wait until their return to finally cash and receive the money from that payment. Paypal is an electronic way to send and receive money -- by now, most people who freelance and even many who salaried jobs are using Paypal to eliminate the need for paper checks. Funds in one's Paypal can be accessed directly using a Paypal buyer credit card (which acts like a debit card using your Paypal balance), or can be transferred into the subject's bank account after a wait of two business days. Paypal also keeps a history of all transactions and their notes, so any confusion or disagreements can be quickly and easily cleared up.
Even the smallest laptop can sometimes be bulky and unwelcome on some trips; backpacking around Europe might not leave any room to carry the machine, and certainly adds the risk of breaking it while lugging around a heavy bag through all kinds of weather and terrain. These cases call for a PC on a stick, which is basically a USB drive that can hold an exact replica of your home computer in the tiny thumb sized drive. A quick stop at an Internet cafe can make exchanging files easy, and makes impromptu work demands a lot more convenient than having to return home early or compromise the trip in any way.
Gmail's free services can be used for more than just GoogleDocs and GoogleVoice -- two softwares comparable to ones that had previously cost a moderate sum from other companies. Emailing files or uploading them to your personal Google Docs database can serve as an online data backup site without all the fees. This method will most likely be the most useful to someone who doesn't have a monumental amount of files to store, but knows what particular set of data is necessary for completing a particular job while on the road.
Open Office is a free version of Microsoft Office, a package of work tools which costs over a hundred dollars. Open Office is fee-free, and can be used to create documents of virtually any kind while on or offline. Even with the available resources to afford Microsoft Office, its free duplicate seems like the obviously better choice.
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