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We live in a very mobile society, and that may be especially
true for those of us in the tech industry. Seems we’re always hoping on a plane
or spending the day across town at a remote office. Even when we’re on vacation,
we’re usually working or at least on call. The trick is to stay connected, no
matter where we are. Luckily, today’s technologies can keep you in touch almost

#1: VOIP: You can take it with you

More and more people are dropping their landlines and moving
to Voice over IP (VoIP) services like Lingo, Vonage, SunRocket, and others for
their home telephone service. With unlimited calling plans (including domestic
long distance and some international calling) for under $25/month, it can save
you a lot of money if you already have a broadband Internet connection. Another
benefit of VoIP is that you can actually take the VoIP box with you when you
travel and plug it into a broadband connection at your hotel or other location.
You can get phone calls at your home number anywhere you are, without
forwarding, and make calls without paying high long distance rates charged by
hotels or roaming fees sometimes charged by cell phone companies.

#2: The ubiquitous mobile phone

Almost everyone has a mobile phone these days, and as
coverage areas expand, you can stay in touch via cell phone nearly anywhere in
the country. Although technologies for cellular communications vary from
country to country, you can now get tri-mode phones that will operate with
different technologies and on different frequencies to allow you to use them

Another alternative, albeit an expensive one, that will give
you coverage all over the world is the satellite phone. Available from
companies such as Globalstar and Iridium, satphones cost $1,000 or more. They
can also be rented on a weekly or monthly basis. Airtime typically costs around
a dollar per minute or more.

#3: Wi-Fi enabled laptops

With 802.11 wireless hotspots becoming widespread and most
new laptop and notebook computers coming with built in Wi-Fi network adapters,
you can connect to the Internet in many places for a fee or, in some cases, at
no charge. Wi-Fi networks are available at airports, coffee shops, restaurants,
and hotels. Many municipalities are also getting into the act, setting up
taxpayer-funded or for-fee hot spots in city parks and libraries and even
covering the entire city. This makes it easy to get your e-mail, browse the Web,
and connect back to your company or home network when you’re on the road.

#4: Wi-Fi enabled handheld computers/PDAs

Don’t want to lug a laptop around with you? Even with
today’s tiny portables (such as the Sony Vaio
series, which weighs only 2.75
lbs.), sometimes you need to travel lighter. Many handheld computers (Pocket PCs
and Palm OS models) now come with built in wi-fi capabilities, too. And if
yours doesn’t, you can probably add it via a Wi-Fi CF or SDIO card for under
$100. Some of these combine the wireless I/O functionality with extra flash
memory storage so you don’t have to trade off one for the other.

#5: Pocket PC and smart phones with high speed Internet

Although they’re becoming available in more and more places,
sometimes a Wi-Fi network is nowhere to be found. If you want to be able to
check your e-mail or browse the Web in locations where there are no 802.11
hotspots, you can buy a Pocket PC/Windows Mobile phone or a smart phone running
another operating system, such as Symbion, and contract with your cell phone
provider to use its high speed data network. For example, Verizon offers
Internet connectivity on your phone via their EV-DO network at 400 to 700 Kbps
in most major cities, and you can access a lower speed data network (144 Kbps)
in other locations. Cingular, Sprint and T-mobile offer similar services, some
using different technologies. Unlimited data plans run about $30/month and up,
in addition to your cell phone voice package.

#6: Cellular WAN service for your laptop

If you don’t like working with the small screen and keyboard
of a phone, most cellular providers also offer high speed WAN service for your
laptop. You’ll need to get the provider’s PCMCIA card. Some laptops even come
with the cards built in; for example, Sony’s VAIO TX computers come with the
Cingular chip already installed so you can connect to its EDGE network (70 to
135 Kbps) or, in major metropolitan areas, its higher speed 3G WAN (400-700
Kbps) without installing additional hardware.

Most providers charge about the same for this service as for
connecting to their broadband services with your phone (around $50/month for
unlimited access).

#7: Mobile satellite Internet for the man (or woman) who has

If you’re on the road constantly and pretty much live in
your vehicle (truck drivers, RV owners, roving reporters), and if you have
plenty of money to spend, you can get a vehicle-mounted satellite dish that
will let you access the Internet wherever you have a clear view of the sky. As
an added bonus, most mobile satellite providers can also give you satellite TV
in your vehicle. These are two-way satellite systems (upstream and downstream)
that suffer the same drawbacks as fixed satellite (such as latency that makes
it unsuitable for some applications, like real-time gaming). MotoSAT Datastorm
is one of the most popular products in this category.

Monthly fees for mobile satellite service range from around
$99/month to thousands per month, depending on upload/download speeds, data
transfer limits, and other features, such as static IP addresses and additional
e-mail accounts.

#8: Public computers and Internet cafes

What if you need to use the Internet only occasionally when
you’re on the road and don’t want to pay high fees for cellular Internet
services or even higher ones for satellite Internet? What if you don’t even have
a laptop to take with you? In that case, you may be able to do what you need to
do by using an Internet-connected computer available to the public.

Many public libraries now provide Internet-connected
computers, and for an hourly or daily fee, you can access your e-mail or surf
the Web in an Internet cafe. Many of these establishments also provide live
entertainment, bars, and/or restaurant service. They usually have printers and
scanners available and may support videoconferencing. A number of databases are
available on the Web to help you locate one, such as

#9: Staying connected in the air

A few airlines have begun offering Internet services on the
plane. In May 2004, Lufthansa became the first commercial airline to offer high
speed Internet access, using a satellite connection provided by Boeing’s
Connexion. In July 2005, the FAA approved United Airlines’ request to install
Verizon Internet access equipment in some of its 757s to be used on domestic
flights. The service is expected to be available sometime in 2006 and cost
around $29.95 for the entire trip or $9.95 for a half hour.

In-flight Internet service uses a combination of satellite
and Wi-Fi. The satellite service provides the Internet connection to the plane
and it’s distributed throughout the plane to the passengers over a Wi-Fi link.

#10: Connecting to resources via VPN and remote control software

Of course, getting connected to the Internet while you’re on
the road (or in the air) may be only half the battle. To get your work done,
you may need to access resources on your company’s network or your home
computer. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to do that.

You can establish a virtual private networking (VPN)
connection to your company or home network if you have a valid account and
there is a VPN server or gateway set up to receive your connection. If you run
Window XP on your home computer, you can use its Remote Desktop service to see
the desktop and run the applications installed on the home system. Or you can
use a third-party program such as PCAnywhere installed on the home/office and
laptop systems. Another option is to use a Web-based service such as GoToMyPC
to connect to your home or office computer. All of these will require you to
set up the home or office computer beforehand.