Living the Mobile Office Dream<br />By Mark A. R. Mitchell<br />What do you get when you enter the words "
into an Internet search engine? Temporary building space and trailers quickly pop to the top of the list.<br /> <br />At Business on Main, though, temporary building space and trailers are hardly what we're talking about when we talk about mobile offices. What we are talking about is a way of working in which you can do the work your business demands without the traditional strictures of cubicles, commutes and florescent lights. In the mobile office, the world is your workplace. You can get the work done wherever you want to work.<br /> <br />Before you go off and put money down on a boat in the Aegean, however, there are some things that you’ll need to do the mobile office right. Here are seven tips to help you and your employees get off to the right start:<br /> <br />Get the right computer for the jobAre you or your employees going to be moving around a lot or primarily working from static, noncorporate office locations (read: homes)? Either way, unless you have specific hardware needs that warrant a larger desktop workstation, a good laptop may be all you need.<br /> <br />Get the right kind of laptopIf you do a lot of work online, consider a laptop with capacious hard drives, a fast processor and a bigger screen; many come with 17-inch, even 18.4-inch screens. And while few of these are as powerful or as flexible (from a configuration standpoint) as the latest desktop systems, they’re all robust enough for routine office work. Keep in mind the weight factor, though, if you or your employees are highly mobile; the larger the laptop, the greater the weight (in most cases).<br /> <br />Consider a larger monitor and keyboard for the home officeThey’re always more comfortable than the keyboard and screen of a laptop for extended periods of work. You can connect the keyboard and screen directly to your laptop, and you’re good to go. Be sure your laptop has the connections you need — VGA or DVI — to support your external monitor properly.<br /> <br />Plug into docking stationsIf you and your employees move frequently between home office and the road, consider getting laptop docking stations. You can just slip the computer in and out of the dock instead of having to plug and unplug the monitor, keyboard, mouse, power and network connections. It may seem like a frill, but it’s one of those things that can streamline your efficiency and time.<br /> <br />Get rid of the landlinesWhat? In the mobile office world there are few compelling reasons to use a landline. When you use your cell phone as your primary business line, one phone number goes where you go. As a result, your clients and coworkers can always reach you.<br /> <br />Use a smartphoneThese mobile devices are more than mere talk-and-text-oriented cell phones. They’ll synchronize with an application such as Microsoft Office Outlook so you can carry a copy of your calendar and your contacts in your pocket. You can also use them to send and receive e-mail and surf the Web if you’re not at your computer. They’re bona fide computing devices that can run many add-on applications that may be helpful for your business.<br /> <br />Get a broadband Internet connection at homeThe mobile office depends on robust connectivity, so this is not an area where you want to compromise. Sign up for the fastest always-on Internet connection you can afford; it’s worth it. Look at the “business” grade plans, too. The connection speeds may be no faster, but you can get a technician to your house within a few hours — rather than a few days — if you have a problem.<br /> <br />OK, now you know the basics. In another column, I talk about the best options for going online when you’re on the go, so stay tuned!<br /> <br />Mark A.R. Mitchell is an avid technology buff and reporter covering small business products and the Consumer Electronics Show. He holds a master’s degree in English literature from Harvard and has worked with leading technology companies and research universities.<br />