Borderless work is the future. From multinational corporations to smaller outfits, staying connected and keeping the workflow going from point to point across the globe is quickly becoming the norm.
Yet the constraints with some technology don't always make this easy. International data plans can still be expensive and riddled with rules. Unknown Wi-Fi networks can present a security risk. Something that ought to be easy isn’t always so.
Before that next trip, here are a few things to consider to ensure that you stay connected and don’t run into any unforeseen security woes.
Before You Leave: Talk to Your IT Manager
If you’re part of an organization with an IT manager, that’s the place to start. Your company may offer subsidies for international data plans for mobile devices, tablets, laptops, or a portable hotspot. Wi-Fi can still be finicky and slow, so a data plan from a mobile network is often the most effective way to ensure access.
The situation may differ depending on if your organization provisions its own devices, uses BYOD, or some hybrid approach. If you’re lucky, your company will do the heavy lifting and subsidize an international plan or hand you a SIM card for the journey.
To recap, here are the things you need to ask about:
1. Is there a company data plan for overseas travel? Or what is the reimbursement policy if you must purchase your own?
2. Does the company have SIM cards, adapters and other hardware necessary for traveling overseas? Or what is the reimbursement policy if you must purchase your own?
For the rest of us, you’ll need to do some research to achieve that all-important data connectivity. First, find out what your carrier offers. The big four all offer some type of international travel plan, which lets you use your phone like normal (for a larger fee, of course). The cost may differ on the country you’re traveling to.
For example, Verizon offers a Travel Pass that is $5 per day to Canada and Mexico, while everywhere else is $10 daily. The upside is it allows you to tap into your plan’s data pool. So you don’t need to buy a separate bucket for your trip. Of course, multiple days will add up. AT&T offers a similar daily plan, while Sprint has its own offerings for keeping you connected. Along with its own travel plans, T-Mobile gives you free access to 2G speeds in over 140 countries. You won’t be able to get much work done, but it could assist with a short burst of data needs in a pinch.
However, much of the planning is still going to be on your end. If your own carrier doesn’t provide solid coverage or you want to explore another choice, then it might be worth checking out the possibility of getting a local SIM card.
If you’re headed to Europe, there’s some good news. The European Union recently abolished roaming fees, which may give you extra freedom if you opt into a local carrier. The top choice may vary depending on which country you’ll be spending the most time with, but I’ve had good success even with budget carriers like Lebara and LycaMobile.
Of course, often times settling into a hotel, conference center, or another venue means there’ll be a Wi-Fi network for you to hop onto. This is where you want to think about security. If your company doesn’t have an enterprise VPN solution, then check out TunnelBear.
TunnelBear is an easy-to-use VPN service.
It’s great if you’re new to the world of VPN, as it’s very easy to setup and use, even with versions for mobile so you can use it on an iPhone, iPad, or Android device. The free layer should give you sufficient control, with a paid tier if you need more than the 500MB data cap. It’s a good solution if you’re flying solo on the security front, but be sure to check with your IT department if there is a preferred solution.
Finally, there’s that small matter of finding a place to work. Perhaps you're lucky and you're sitting in at a spare desk in your company's office on the new site. But if you're not, being stuck in the hotel room or lobby all day isn’t that fun, especially if there’s a great city to get out and explore.
Just like in the U.S., coworking spaces have grown in popularity throughout the globe. A simple Google search of “coworking spaces [city]” brings forth a plentiful supply in most places.
The advantage of such a venue is that it generally includes speedy Internet and is structured for people to get work done instead just mill around and chat. The coffee may not be as good, but you won’t have anyone giving you the stink eye for occupying the same table for three hours.
The real key is that there’s more to keeping your workflow connected than just throwing the laptop in the bag. Internet connectivity, security, and a spot to work don’t just land in your lap while traveling. But if you do some work ahead of time and make plans for those issues, you may actually find a little free time to enjoy the visit.