Technology is a powerful thing for small business owners, regardless what type of business they run. Using technology can help entrepreneurs save money, streamline business processes, promote their products and services in new ways, and work more productively.
Technology also gives many small business owners the ability to leave their home or business offices behind and create mobile offices so they can work from anywhere, at any time. This kind of mobility helps small business owners become nimble and more flexible.
If you are ready to take your business on the road, here is some advice for creating an operational mobile office that allows you to work from anywhere.
Choose the Right Mobile Computer
If your work requires a computer, you will need a light and movable system that you can pick up and take with you when you leave your main office. That eliminates a desktop computer, but you still have other options to consider.
Depending on the work you do, you may need a powerhouse laptop, such as a MacBook Pro. If you can get by with something lighter, Google's Chromebooks are lightweight, uncluttered and reasonably secure. You may even be able to get by with an Apple iPad if all you're doing is exchanging emails and keeping up with social media.
Which computer you choose will be determined partly by how permanent you want your remote office to be, and partly by how much you want to spend. You should be looking for something that will provide enough features to help you bridge the gap between your primary office and your mobile office.
Get a Reliable and Secure Internet Connection
You can't run a business these days without an Internet connection, but free Wi-Fi hotspots are not going to cut it. First, free access points are typically not reliable enough for business work. And second, Wi-Fi hotspots are not secure. Using one with a business computer can put your data at risk.
One alternative is a high-speed mobile access card, or a MiFi (a compact wireless router). You can purchase the device and data plan from your mobile phone service provider, or from a company that offers pre-paid or pay-as-you-go wireless access.
If you're not going to use your MiFi on a regular basis, you can always tether your computer to your cell phone, and use its internet connection. But be aware that this can rank up the minutes on your data plan, and can get expensive.
Whichever option you choose, make sure you protect your data by using an encrypted password.
Make Your Data Accessible
If you have multiple computers (a desktop in your office and a laptop for mobile working, for example), you will need a way to share files between your computers. You can manually email yourself files, or use a USB drive to move files from one computer to the other. This is tedious, however, and can present version control issues.
One option is using an online backup service that will automatically backup and synchronize your data across multiple devices.
However, most internet users have access to Google Drive or a similar cloud-based service allowing files to be truly "portable" and accessible wherever you have an Internet connection. But again, be aware of the potential security risks.
Run System Maintenance Regularly
There is nothing like booting up your computer, only to find that there is a slew of operating system and software updates that need to download and install. This is a major productivity-killer, especially when you're mobile. Make sure you update your system before traveling to avoid this unnecessary downtime.
You should also make sure you have reliable anti-virus software installed and updated. And don't skip those security patches that need to be installed. Keeping your system updated and virus-free is vital for every business, mobile or stationary.
Don't Forget Peripherals
Whether it's a portable printer or scanner, an extra battery, or your favorite mouse, make sure your mobile office is ready to support your work, comfortably and efficiently. You should also bring the power cord for your mobile computer so you can keep it charged and ready to go. And it's a good idea to travel with a small surge protector to protect your computer in case of an unexpected power surge.
Once you perfect your mobile workspace, you may even find that you don't need a stationary central office any longer.