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10 tips: how to get online, anywhere

Get your work done by any internet connection necessary

If you're a regular when it comes to working on the go, then you'll probably have experienced the frustration when it's impossible to find an internet connection, whether it's through a 3G dongle, or even your smartphone. Here are 10 road-tested tips for getting your work done by any internet connection necessary.

Test your speed before uploading large files

If you need to send a few large files back to home base, try out a few different services before starting the upload in earnest. After all, your mobile ISP or hotel IT administrator might have blocked or throttled certain services. Another concern: What seems like the most direct file-transfer method (uploading to your company's FTP server, for example) might actually be bogged down with unnecessary intermediaries such as a VPN connection that could reduce the overall speed.

While uploading a video file from a hotel ethernet connection, I found that I got only 20kbps from our FTP server, while Dropbox bumped me up to 50kbps and MediaFire managed 80kbps. Even though I wasn't directly transferring the video to the home office, using MediaFire instead of our in-house FTP saved time for everyone involved.

Use protection on open Wi-Fi hotspots

The time you save by logging in to the first unencrypted Wi-Fi hotspot you encounter doesn't compare to the risk you take if someone shady sniffs your password or hijacks your Gmail session and steals all your personal info. You can reduce your risk by using utilities such as Hotspot Shield and configuring your Web apps to use HTTPS whenever possible, but you need to take those steps before you log in to the unprotected Wi-Fi spot. Read 'How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi' for more security tips.

Come down from the cloud

It's easier than ever to keep your work in the cloud without disrupting a traditional work environment - that is, until someone pulls the plug. Make sure to have a solid set of offline tools so that you can still work when you're disconnected, and keep local copies of anything business-critical (your schedule, for example). Maintaining a record can be as simple as saving a Google Doc as a Word doc, or taking a quick screenshot of your to-do list on your smartphone before you head to the airport.

If you depend on Google services, grab Google Gears. Even though Google effectively abandoned it more than a year ago, it still allows you to access your Google Docs, Gmail, Google Calendar and a few third-party apps like Remember the Milk without an internet connection. It's already built into Chrome, but it also supports Firefox and Internet Explorer in Windows, and Firefox in OS X.

Bring a better Wi-Fi stumbler

Still using Windows' built-in Wi-Fi panel in the taskbar? Before you hit the road, pick up a more powerful utility such as NetStumbler or InSSIDer. Unlike Windows' built-in Wi-Fi signal meter, these apps will give you a good look at which networks have a consistently strong signal over time, which networks are on overlapping channels, and so on. This information is particularly useful when several usable networks are in the area and you want to know which one will give you the best reception without having to try them all out one by one.

NEXT PAGE: Use protection

  1. Get your work done by any internet connection necessary
  2. Test your speed before uploading
  3. Use protection

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