Get online wherever you are
You can have access to the internet from (almost) anywhere
To be able to truly work from anywhere, you need to be able to get online from anywhere. After all, nearly everything we do in our business lives requires an internet connection. Sending and receiving emails, researching market information, or connecting to the server to download documents. There are a number of ways to make sure you - and anyone travelling with you - can access the internet using your laptop's built-in wireless networking, even when you're nowhere near a WiFi hotspot.
The first of these options is to get online using a 3G dongle. There are a variety of deals available from all the networks starting at about £5 a month for 18 months from Orange. Alternatively O2 offers Mobile Broadband on a Pay & Go basis from just £2 per day. You may need to factor in the cost of the broadband dongle when purchasing the deal.
The speeds offered are usually up to 7.2Mbps, although some are lower, and downloads are normally capped at around 1 - 3GB although you can shop around for 10GB offers. You can compare deals at Broadband Genie (www.broadbandgenie.co.uk).
The thing to remember is that, while we are used to using our iPhones to get online whenever we want, with no apparent data caps, these 3G broadband dongles can become pricy solutions if our needs are greater than what we have signed up for. Beware of opting for a 1GB download cap if you are likely to be downloading weighty documents from the office everyday.
Tethering your iPhone
Speaking of the iPhone, another option is to share your iPhone's 3G connection with your laptop. Unfortunately Apple and your mobile network don't allow this automatically. You'll need to sign up for iPhone Tethering, which starts at £10 a month on O2 and lets you download up to 3GB of data. Any additional data you download costs another 20p per MB.
iPhone Tethering basically turns your iPhone into a modem. The phone connects to the internet over the 3G network; you then connect your laptop to the phone and voila, you're online. You can then use your laptop as a base station to share that connection via WiFi (more on this later).
There are two ways to tether your iPhone to your laptop. You can use the USB cable included with your iPhone - and charge your iPhone at the same time. Or you can wirelessly tether your computer to your iPhone using Bluetooth.
Setting up a tethering connection on your Mac is easy. In Settings, choose General > Network > Internet Tethering. Now slide the Internet Tethering switch to On.
If you are using USB, connect the iPhone to the computer using the USB cable and follow any prompts on the computer to configure a new network connection.
If using Bluetooth, turn on Bluetooth on your iPhone and pair it with your computer. Open Bluetooth Preferences, click Set Up New Device and follow the onscreen instructions. When pairing is complete, make sure the option 'Use device as a network port' is selected.
Now click the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar, choose your iPhone, and then choose 'Connect to network'. Your iPhone should now have a blue bar at the top of the screen to show that Tethering is working.
To pair your iPhone with your Mac it must be running Mac OS X 10.5.7 or later.
Both of these options - iPhone tethering and using a 3G adapter - are handy if you want to connect a laptop to the internet and then share that connection from the laptop.
To set up that sharing, first establish the internet connection to the laptop. Then open the Sharing preference pane (System Preferences > Sharing) and select Internet Sharing. (Don't check its box yet.) From the Share Your Connection From drop-down menu, choose the active Internet connection. In the To Computers Using list, check the AirPort box. If you want to password-protect the connection you're sharing (an advisable thing to do), click AirPort Options and set it there. Finally, check the box next to Internet Sharing to turn sharing on. You may need to repeat these steps each time you enable the connection.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has ruled our a tethering option with the 3G version iPad (perhaps because tethering still isn't possible in the US as the US iPhone carrier AT&T does not support it).
One thing to keep in mind with 3G dongles and iPhone Tethering, is that if you are thinking of using them abroad, don't: you'll pay a high price for the data you download.
So what if you do want to share an internet connection abroad? One option is to carry an Airport Express in your luggage. Plug the Airport Express into the Ethernet port in your hotel room and you will be able to work on your laptop from anywhere in the room as well as share that connection with other devices that have WiFi but no Ethernet (such as an iPhone) and with family members or colleagues. Apple says the AirPort Express can support up to ten simultaneous WiFi connections. You may first need to connect your laptop via Ethernet to register or activate the room's connection, then plug in the AirPort Express. Make sure to activate WPA2 Personal encryption so your shared connection isn't accessible to just anyone.