Guest post by Maria Rainier
There are few things more important to our success when we are trying to do work or complete a task than the environment in which we are working. There’s a reason teachers spend so much time putting together their classrooms, libraries are ideal study zones for over-caffeinated college students, and companies put so much thought into their employee work stations—our work environment in many ways determines our success. That being said, today with online learning, online classrooms, remote jobs, and digital enterprises, the term “office” has evolved to mean many different things. More and more often, activities that at one point relied on physical work spaces and classrooms are moving to the digital realm.
As our world has become increasingly more mobile, so too have our offices—and it’s pretty amazing. With the influx of online education and online enterprises, people are able to study from the comfort of their own homes and can earn a living while travelling the world. This mobile freedom comes with some requirements. Whether you are a busy work at home mom going back to school online or a successful business person looking to travel the world while still maintaining your business, in order to create a truly successful and productive digital office there are a few essential office items you’ll need to consider.
As a traveling employee, a traveling student or as the owner of your own mobile business, your online success boils down to the capability of your computer. Find a device that satisfies your specific work needs. Some of the most important aspects to consider for your computer include wireless connectivity, battery life, speed, memory, graphics card quality, and hard drive space. Your computer essentially comprises your entire office space. You complete your work on your computer, store things there, conduct communications there, and, for the most part, spend every moment of your workday at the screen. For this reason, it is essential that you find the computer that really suits your needs. While this includes computer specs and hardware, it also involves the appearance, size, and usability of the device. Find a laptop that you are comfortable using—make sure the screen is large enough, the keyboard is comfortable, and the operating system is familiar.
Aside from your computer and word processor, the next most essential element of a digital office is the internet. Mobile broadband is basically a must these days. While many coffee shops and businesses offer free Wi-Fi, running a mobile office off of these spots is not always realistic. You have many options for mobile broadband providers. It’s important that you look into the speed of connection you can get from your various options. Make sure that you get something that will give you enough power to be truly productive online. Here are some of your options:
Cellphone: Many cellphone providers offer “internet tethering” (which is just a fancy way of saying using your cellphones internet connection on your laptop). Verizon offers this service on several of their phones at a very reasonable price. Other cellphone providers have phones and plans with the same capabilities. Talk to your cellphone provider about your options. This can be a great way to carry around fewer devices when you are working and traveling.
USB Wireless Cards: This is another great option for internet connection from anywhere. The USB cards are small USB devices that hook right into your laptop and give you internet access (these look like small memory drives or “sticks”). There are several different types of these cards and they come with various different speeds and capabilities.
Personal Hotspot: Another option is a portable WiFi router that can be moved from city to city and plugged directly into a wall outlet. These devices use cellular networks to connect online and are a bit more restrictive as far as size and mobility than the above options.
There are many more options for “hotspots” and WiFi devices. I recommend doing your research and figuring out what would be best for you. Talking with your cellular provider is a great first step.
Some sort of storage device or external hard drive is an absolute must for a digital office. All too often, we are devastated when our machines malfunction and we lose our hard work. Computers are wonderful in that they can store a significant amount of our important data and digital material, but things do go wrong. It’s important that you prepare yourself with a backup system. Either buy an external hard drive to keep with you and store backup versions of all of your work, or use an online “cloud” storage system. One of the best online storage spaces is Dropbox. With Dropbox, users can store up to two gigs of data on their personalized and secure space. That space is accessible from any device with internet access through cloud technology. Dropbox is extremely reliable and very handy. I highly recommend cloud storage for traveling offices. External hard drives do the job, but they take up just that much more space. Having a “digital office” is all about minimizing the actual devices you have to lug around.
While most of the aspects of a digital office involve impersonal communication through instant messaging and email, there are times that face-to-face interaction is necessary. In the past this was the most challenging aspects of maintaining a mobile lifestyle while also maintaining a stable office career. Today, there are technologies like Skype to help us stay connected. Skype is a free calling system that enables you to connect with people all over the world. You can video chat using Skype or hold traditional calls. Today, many laptops come with built in webcams that users can use for Skype talks.
Modern technology has made it possible to remain connected and productive in every kind of unique situation. With the right equipment, you can earn your living while traveling through Eastern Europe or complete an online bachelor’s degree while sitting on a beach in Mexico. Consider your possibilities and create a digital office that can help you realize your mobile dreams.
Maria Rainier makes her living as a freelance blogger. An avid follower of the latest trends in technology and education, Maria believes that online degrees and online universities are the future of higher learning. Please share your comments with her.