A few days ago I wrote you about how my laptop was stolen while travelling abroad. Since then, I’ve received an outpouring of support, letters of thankfulness that no one was hurt, and empathy from people who’ve had similar experiences.
Some of those letters have come with advice and suggestions about how to prevent such problems in the future. And in hind-sight, I also will now do some things differently when I travel — with our without my laptop.
I wrote the next day about some general tips on how to protect your laptop computer — whether you travel or not.
Today, we’re going to focus on some specific advice for when you travel — whether on business or for pleasure — and bring your laptop along.
And just in case you think some of these suggestions are a bit over the top or unnecessary, please remember what I said last week — it’s always too much until it’s not enough.
Here are my tips when travelling with technology — laptops, cameras, PDAs.
1) WIRELESS HOTSPOT DANGERS – Almost every hotel now has wireless internet, or wired internet in their rooms, and you can log into their service for $10 to $25 a day, depending on the rate at the hotel you are staying in.
But I’d advise against it if you can avoid it.
I spend a considerable amount of time outside of my office. My business is such that I can work from just about anywhere that I decide to sit down with my laptop. I used to subscribe to the Tmobile hotspot service so I could work at any local Starbucks or book store.
But the problem with Tmobile and your hotel room are the same — you’re logging into a public network that anyone can tap into, and that anyone can monitor. As a result, the data going over the wires — including your email passwords, your website logins — are easily snoop-able over the air.
And you’ll never be the wiser.
USA Today wrote an article about wireless security, and quoted a security expert who said “If you’re using Wi-Fi in a public place and you’re not getting hacked, it’s only because there’s nobody around bothering to do it.” Scarey, eh?
It happens all the time, and can be very scary…especially if it’s a site with financial information. That’s why I switched over to using a wireless datacard for my laptop. My Sprint service gives me 400kbps all the way up to T1 speeds (1.5mbps) — which is better than many home DSL solutions.
With my datacard, I can be online anywhere in the USA — whether in my hotel room or the local Starbucks — but my data is totally secure. I’ve got my own unhackable connection to the web.
2) HOTEL-ROOM SECURITY – Look, there are good people and there are bad people in the world. Some of them are hotel maids, and some are executives in big corporations. The message here is to be vigilant, wherever you are, and whatever you are doing. But in your hotel room, there are a few things you can do to swing the odds in your favor that you’ll be coming home with the computer you started with.
Slam your hotel door SHUT at night. This might be the problem in the room I was in. I suspect the latch failed to catch on a faulty door. Inspecting the door after my laptop was gone revealed that the door needed to be slammed in order to latch. Be aware at all times.
Also, if your hotel room has one of those swinging loop-type latches, use it. I often neglected to use it, but if you don’t have this extra level of security, even if your door latch works properly, someone with a keycard can enter your room while you’re asleep and take what they want.
Alas, the room I was in didn’t have one of these extra locks. If it had one, I’d still have my laptop today.
3) LOCK IT DOWN — Get a cable lock. This is something that I hadn’t really considered until a reader suggested it on my blog last week. I always thought these were for locking your laptop down to your office desk…but I was wrong. These are made specifically for travel as well.
Laptop cable locks are relatively light weight, easy to use, and will keep your laptop where you leave it (unless your thief comes at you James Bond style with a pocket laser beam to cut the cable).
As soon as my new laptop arrives, I’ll be picking one of these up and keeping it in my laptop backpack.
4) TRAVEL LIGHT – Consider leaving your laptop at home. Instead, subscribe to GoToMyPC and connect to your laptop or desktop computer from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
GoToMyPC allows you to operate your computer as though you were sitting in front of it. What you type on the keyboard in front of you shows up on your computer at home. And you can see the screen as well. As long as you have a reasonably fast internet connection, you’re good to go.
The GoToMyPC software runs on your “host” computer — the one you want to connect to. When you travel, just go down to your business center, log into the www.GoToMyPC.com and type in your username and password. Moments later, you’ll see your remote screen in front of you.
Yes, it means you’ve got to pay the business center fee. And yes, it’s sometimes not as convenient as it would be if you were sitting in your own room. But on the bright side, it really inspires you to get your work done quickly so you can get back to your room and rest.
I’ve been using GoToMyPC for years, and it’s terrific. Yes, there are free solutions that do similar things, but this service — at about a dollar a day — is owned by Citrix and is very secure. HIGHLY recommended.
Oh, and it’s a great tool to use even when you don’t travel. Load this on your office computer, and access your office computer from home — any time you want. It might even inspire you to work from home now and then.
5) BACKUP AGAIN – I talked about this the other day…Always back up your computer. But when you travel, it’s especially important to back up your computer right before you leave. There’s nothing worse than restoring your data, only to find out it’s weeks or months old. One final complete backup before you leave is invaluable for your peace of mind.
I recommend Acronis True Image Home backup software (http://www.MarkPrefers.com/acronis) , and there’s a link to a guide to using Acronis that one of my readers wrote on my blog.
6) ONLINE BACKUP – I talked last week about using an online backup service. But if you’re actually doing business on your trip, and creating valuable work product that you don’t want to lose, an online backup service can keep you current every day (or every hour or two) even while you’re away. I use Mozy Home Http://www.MarkPrefers.com/mozy and for $5 a month, my data can be backed up daily (or hourly).
Got any suggestions of your own for when you travel? Got any laptop travel horror stories of your own? Please offer them up so that other people can benefit from what you know, and so that we can all avoid these kinds of disasters whenever possible.
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To Your Success,