What technology do you need to start running your business from a sunny hideaway?
By Mike Ianiri, Equinox
If you could run your business from anywhere where would you go? The Maldives, the Caribbean? Somewhere completely different? Imagine the relaxed surroundings, with wonderful weather and it begins to feel very appealing. Luckily technology is your friend.
Whether you want to move permanently to somewhere sunnier, or you’re just thinking of spending a few months each at your holiday home or a rented cottage by the sea – here’s what you’ll need.
Get the right Hardware
Working in such an idyllic location, you don’t want to carry a huge laptop around. That points you at something like the Microsoft Surface Pro or Apple Macbook Air. Just be careful about the sand and saltwater! If you want a more rugged device, have a look at the Dell Rugged Extreme range, but check your credit card balance before going online. They’re not cheap!
Don’t skimp on this step – you want something that is reliable, that can be repaired in the country you’re staying in, and can cope with the sort of work you are doing and the software you’ll need to run. Remote working is likely to mean you’ll be accessing the Cloud at lot, and you may also have several programs running at the same time – so choosing something with a decent amount of RAM is important. Also, if you think you’re likely to have to work offline a lot, then a good-sized hard drive, or one that connects to an extra external hard drive is important.
Assuming there isn’t a plug socket anywhere close, you’ll need a powerbank. Here’re a few to choose from. To help you choose the right one, here’re a few things to consider:
Options for Internet Connectivity
Assuming you have a UK based business, when you’re on the beach, you’ll need to connect to the internet. If your house is on the edge of the beach and the WiFi reaches the beach, then great. If not, you’ll need a 4G connection and be able to tether via your phone.
If you are sold on the beach being a Caribbean one, you will have to be prepared to work with fairly slow speeds. The Bahamas seems to have the fastest broadband speeds in the area, at about 9.95Mbps. If you’re happy with the Florida coastline instead, you can get much faster speeds, at 46.6Mbps. If you want to use 4G, here’s where you can choose your preferred beach.
If you are travelling for a short period, check the price of buying data locally. Sometimes it is cheaper, to buy your data, in the UK and sometimes it’s cheaper locally. If your mobile contract comes with a lot of data, check their roaming policies. Outside of the EU, most UK operators charge £5 per day to use your contract data. That may be sufficient.
Don’t forget you will be backing up your data online, as well as accessing your apps and email. Ensure you take that into consideration when looking at how much data you need.
A security warning here. If the data on your laptop needs to be secured, be very careful about using local WiFi. It is a common practice for hackers to spoof WiFi connections in order to get access to your data.
Mobile vs VOIP
Running a business means talking to people; a lot of people. Staff, clients, suppliers, investors and prospects are just a few. Depending on where most of your clients are, you need to think carefully about how you set up your phones. Your mobile is certainly not your best option, even if it is one of the easiest devices to take to the beach. If you decide on the Bahamas because of the broadband speeds, mobile calls back to the UK could cost over £2 a minute.
A VoIP-based solution with a softphone on your laptop and/or your smartphone handset may be the best solution. SIP trunk connections to other countries where you do a lot of business will mean you’re only ever making local calls, rather than calling at international rates. You can even keep a UK landline number – so clients never need to know you’re on the beach rather than at your UK desk. Just remember to check the daily weather forecast back home so you know what to say when someone says, ‘dreadful weather we’re having here – what’s it like in your neck of the woods?’
Securing your data
Working in remote locations, particularly if it is only for a short period of time, can increase security concerns. Devices being stolen can mean a major data security nightmare. Data breaches on devices that contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) for EU citizens need to be reported to the information Commissioners Office (ICO) within 72 hours. You also have to tell the people affected!
Far better to secure your devices and be able to remotely wipe them, if necessary. Talk to your IT Manager or IT support company about Mobile Device Management (MDM), biometrics or two-factor authentication (2FA) before you go.
Remote working is nothing new and there are plenty of ways to communicate with a geographically diverse team. The range of tools to help you continues to grow.
Instant messaging tools, such as Slack, Hipchat or Google’s Hangout Chat are all free, or have free versions. Slack is probably the one you’ve heard of and probably used at some point.
Video-conferencing could be an alternative to using a phone, but the quality of your internet connection may determine whether this is something you use all the time, or just occasionally. Skype is probably the biggest name in this market, but there are plenty of others, such as Google’s Hangout and Zoom.
Project management is a key requirement for remote teams. Thankfully there are a range of different tools available to you. Basecamp is one to consider if your projects aren’t particularly complex. Or look at Trello that also allows you to manage a number of different projects using a ‘boards’ system. If you need something that combines chat, meetings, collaborative working, file sharing and project management in one place, something like Microsoft Teams is worth considering.
Remote team working
Should this point be the first one in this article or the last? It’s last here because it should be a given. If you’re going to run your business from a beach, you need to be able to trust your team back in the office, wherever that may be. If you don’t, you’ll be spending a lot less time at the beach than you want to.
It won’t matter how good your telecoms or your productivity apps are, if your team aren’t working with you, you cannot work anywhere that isn’t where they are. Most of the apps listed above will track when, and sometimes where, entries are made, so you can see if your team are working. Some will also show when people are logged in or online – just in case you want/need to keep an eye on people.
Technology which can help you work from anywhere in the world is improving constantly. It may not be the right choice for everyone, or every business – but many people can make working from the beach a reality if they want to. Get set up properly and pack your suit cases!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Ianiri is Director of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox. Mike works with companies, charities and other organisations to help them choose the right telecoms packages for their needs and thereby reduce their costs. He is particularly knowledgeable on the integration of IT and telecoms in business. www.equinoxcomms.co.uk