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Face it. There’s probably not
much you can tell seasoned road warriors about taking care of your company’s
laptop equipment. Even if there is, chances are they won’t listen. But what
about the newbie or occasional traveler–those just starting out or who get on
a plane for business reasons only a couple of times a year? These users are
still relatively open-minded and malleable, so now’s your prime opportunity for
planting the seed of responsible mobile computing. Here are 10 measures you can
take to help ensure the security, successful usage, and trouble-free operation
of laptop equipment at large.

#1: Back up all
data before that computer leaves the office

It is notoriously difficult to develop an infallible backup
strategy for mobile devices that does not involve some degree of cooperation
from the user. Consider synching with network folders, training the user in the
fine art of burning CDs, or copying to jump drives or other type of removable
device. In addition to data, give some consideration to what settings, config files, or ini files it may
be useful to preserve–basically anything that could make the process of
rebuilding a system a less arduous task. In my experience, users are generally
more distressed by the loss of their Favorites than their files.

#2: Check
that the antivirus solution is current and that definition updates are

Make sure
users are familiar with the software so that if a virus is detected, they know
what, if anything, they should do.

#3: Give
travelers a pre-trip checklist

Include the things
they should do before they leave, items they should take, procedures for making
remote connections, and other general advice for traveling with a computer–a
hitchhiker’s guide to mobile computing. This may sound silly, but if you try to
make this guide entertaining, it’s far more likely to be both read and

#4: Double-check
to make sure travelers have all the necessary components, applications, and data

notebooks are modular which, while resulting in a lighter machine, can also result
in essential modules being left behind. Does the traveler need a floppy drive
or CDR? What about the power supply or even an extra battery?

Give special
consideration to users who are borrowing a notebook for their travels. Take the
time to ask them what applications they’re expecting to use while on the road
and personally verify that both the applications and the relevant data are
available on the notebook in question.

#5: Don’t
forget about pointing devices

The notebook’s
built-in mousing device–you know, that nasty little
knobby thing in the middle of the keyboard or the slide-y square that refuses
to respond to overly dry or cold fingertips–may be acceptable for checking the
occasional e-mail. But if the user is expecting to spend hours sitting on a
plane constructing spreadsheets (or playing Diablo), other options should
probably be considered.

#6: Address
power needs

Where is the
person going? If he or she is leaving the country, you may want to consider a
power plug adapter. There are nine kinds in use around the world. Also, find
out whether the destination country uses 110v AC; if not, you may need to supply
a step-down transformer.

#7: Ensure

When was the
last time the modem was used? Despite the recent proliferation of Wi-Fi hotspots, it’s still sometimes necessary to do things
the old-fashioned way, especially if the user is heading for a less-connected
country. Make sure that the modem works and that the user is familiar with its
operation. If he or she is leaving the country, you may need to supply a phone
jack adapter. An astonishing 39 varieties are in use around our planet.

#8: Facilitate remote access, including e-mail

Don’t assume
users know how to use e-mail on the road. Give them a clear set of instructions
explaining how they can access and manage their e-mail and encourage them to
practice from home before leaving so any issues can be resolved before becoming

If your
company allows access to systems in addition to e-mail, users will most likely
benefit from both instruction and practice in making a remote connection.
Consider setting up time for a short tutorial where you can walk users through
the process and make them aware of the different scenarios they may encounter
in airports, hotels, client sites, etc. As with e-mail access, encourage them
to practice from home before leaving. Make sure that they have all the IDs,
passwords, and devices they’ll need to make a secure connection.

#9: Provide

You may want
to offer users a locking device for the computer. Various types are on the
market that attach the computer to a desk leg or something similar. Ideally,
the computer shouldn’t be left unattended, and realistically no locking device
is going to protect against the determined thief. But this may be something
worth considering, if only to raise the user’s awareness of the potential risk.

If the
computer is stolen, you’ll want to be
confident that any sensitive data is protected from unauthorized eyes. If this
is an issue, consider installing encryption software and instructing the
employee in its use.

#10: Supply
users with recovery tools

You may want
to provide users with an emergency repair disk, boot and setup disks for OS,
and crucial apps. If the unthinkable happens–even if users don’t know how to rebuild
their system–you may be able to help them over the phone or perhaps they can
get assistance at their destination.